CMU students call on campus police to improve transparency, disarm officers in some situations

(From left to right) Ananiah Pettis, Isabel Brum, Emilia Schwallie and Alastair McMillan present their capstone about policing on CMU’s campus on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.

A group of seniors spent months researching campus policing and outlined nine recommendations for improvement in a presentation on Friday.

by Emma Folts, PublicSource

A group of seniors at Carnegie Mellon University have spent months researching campus policing. Now, they’re calling on the university to improve the transparency of its police department, disarm officers in certain situations and make it easier to provide feedback to the department.

Four seniors presented the capstone project on Friday, outlining nine areas for improvement within the campus police department. Their work incorporates a survey of nearly 200 students and an analysis of the history of policing at the university, among other components. 

“Put simply, they’re doing a good job, there haven’t been any major issues of late, but there are improvements that can be made,” student Alistair McMillan said. 

In February, the university published the results of a third-party review of the police department’s policies and operations. The undertaking was cited in a progress update on CMU’s commitments to confront racism and promote equity and inclusion following George Floyd’s murder by a former Minneapolis police officer. 21CP Solutions, the consulting agency that conducted the review, issued 39 recommendations for improvement; they included clarifying and revising the department’s use-of-force policy and creating a more visible, online means for filing complaints. 

The students largely support the findings of 21CP Solutions. CMU states online that the university has begun implementing more than 60% of the recommendations from the agency, but it’s unclear which ones. Peter Kerwin, a spokesperson for the university, wrote in an email that the agency’s recommendations “have been implemented or are in progress.” 

“While we have yet to see the recommendations coming out of this particular project, we welcome student input as we seek to further support community safety and well-being,” Kerwin wrote in the statement.

Entering a cooperative agreement 

Both the students and 21CP Solutions have recommended that the campus police department have a more clearly defined relationship with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and provide more information to the public about its operations. 

Ananiah Pettis speaks during the presentation of a capstone about policing on CMU's campus on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.Ananiah Pettis speaks during the presentation of a capstone about policing on CMU’s campus on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022.

The consulting agency recommended that CMU and its police department enter a memorandum of understanding with the city and its police bureau. Among other components, the agreement should define the campus police department’s patrol boundaries and outline “each police department’s authorities, roles and responsibilities when supporting each other in their operations,” according to the agency’s report.

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