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Letter to the campus community on Community Board on Public Safety’s report

Dear Stanford community,

Today we are releasing the first annual progress report of our Community Board on Public Safety. You can find the Community Board’s first report on the web here, and a summary is available in a Stanford Report story. The university will be working next to review the board’s recommendations and begin designing implementation steps in response.

In its report, the Community Board makes many important recommendations for “re-imagining” public safety at Stanford. It proposes principles including reduced community engagement with armed officers to the extent possible, new strategies for responding to mental health crises, coordination of contracted security services and new processes for receiving and evaluating community feedback on police interactions, among others.

These recommendations are the product of an ongoing process of community consultation and an extensive set of deliberations among a Community Board composed of faculty, students, staff, community representatives and members of the Department of Public Safety. They have invested tremendous effort in hearing from the community and developing strategies for meaningfully supporting the safety of our community. The board’s work is ongoing, and it will continue to develop ideas and monitor implementation in a spirit of continual improvement.

The report also includes an initial set of data about police interactions at Stanford. The Community Board reported that these initial data are incomplete and difficult to interpret, in part because the Stanford campus population of students, faculty and staff is not representative of the total population of people on Stanford’s campus with whom police interact on any given day. The board cautioned against drawing conclusions from the data at this time but added that some of the data point to questions that need further investigation.

Some of those questions are about possible group differences in experiences with police officers; the report notes greater numbers of certain kinds of police interactions with Black and Latinx individuals, which warrants closer examination. Other questions are about data that suggest our community’s calls for service from the police may in themselves be leading to more police interactions with people of color – meaning that we may need to look at ourselves, as a community, and the reasons we call for police response.

The Community Board will be doing further analysis and may make additional recommendations about these and other issues, which we welcome. It is essential that we have a community in which all people, of every race and background, feel safe and protected. Wherever there are questions of unequal treatment based on race or ethnicity, we must confront them squarely and unequivocally.

Our Department of Public Safety is committed to providing outstanding service to our community and understands the unique requirements of supporting public safety on a university campus. Its officers put themselves in harm’s way each day to protect our community. The department also embraces continual improvement in its practices. It is important to recognize the service and dedication of DPS even as we acknowledge areas for improvement.

The board’s report makes high-level recommendations for developing and refining the model of public safety that is best suited for our community. The next step is for the university to assess and design how those recommendations can be implemented operationally. We will be scoping out this process over the next few weeks, and the fuller design process will occur over the next year, including consultation with subject-matter experts, continued engagement with the Stanford community and discussion with Santa Clara County, which delegates law enforcement authority on our campus to the Department of Public Safety under a memorandum of understanding. The work of the Community Board itself also will continue.

I am extremely grateful to the Community Board on Public Safety, and its co-chairs Claude Steele and Patrick Dunkley, for their many hours of work in advancing this essential re-evaluation of our safety and security arrangements. We will continue to keep you updated on both the board’s activities and our implementation work.


Marc Tessier-Lavigne