This issue, we interviewed members of Pitt Police and administration about the new organization of campus police, as well as police officers wearing Thin Blue Line and Blue Lives Matter masks while on duty.
Students of color on our campus understandably feel uncomfortable, intimidated, and downright unsafe when they see officers patrolling in these masks. This should be reason enough to ban officers from wearing them while on duty.
Commander Redman explained that he feels officers wear them to “convey belief that, while we should never be complacent in self-reflection and improvement, the profession is a noble and necessary one, and hard lessons were learned at the expense of brave men and women of all beliefs and ethnic or racial origins giving their lives in service of their communities,” but I don’t think this is accurate.
Although Thin Blue Line imagery has existed since the fifties, it has become undoubtedly tied with the Blue Lives Matter movement as well as the “blue code” or “blue wall of silence,” which are informal slogans referring to officers’ refusal to comply with misconduct investigations.
The Blue Lives Matter movement is an offensive, racist countermovement made to parody the Black Lives Matter movement, which was created in response to the overwhelming brutality black Americans face at the hands of police.
There are no “blue” lives, only blue uniforms. And officers’ lives clearly matter already.
It’s the reason why they are consistently let off the hook for murdering innocent black Americans, like Officers George Zimmerman, Michael Rosfeld, Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove, Robert Gowans, and countless others. Many more will, too.
It’s no wonder students of color, especially black students, feel threatened by officers wearing these symbols. They’re not some sign of pride or unity – they’re a celebration of the violence committed against them and their communities.
Students of color face racism constantly in their everyday lives. The University should be doing everything in their power to lessen this burden.
Last semester, Kaylee Stinebiser covered our campus’s debt crisis, which occurred because our enrollment decreased. We also are having issues retaining students, especially students of color.
In Fall 2018, only 50.6% of freshmen minority students returned to Pitt-Greensburg for their sophomore year. I wonder why.
If the University really values students of color, they need to ban officers from wearing these face masks while on duty. Administration provided all students with Pitt branded masks this semester, and they should do the same with Pitt Police.
Instead of this, President Dr. Gregerson offered a forum as a solution. The campus claims they’re doing everything they can to help students of color feel safe and welcome, but during this chaotic, compressed semester, they’re asking them to take time and sit down with people that make them feel unsafe.
Why is the onus on them? If they feel uncomfortable, why is your solution to place them in the exact environment that makes them uncomfortable?
Not only that, but the University has reorganized the entire University system’s police force with no notice to students.
Just under a month ago, Pitt Police held a town hall in which Chief Loftus promised “accountability and transparency.” If this is truly the goal of the police force, why weren’t students notified about this?
Our staff only became aware of the change after noticing our campus police chief was quietly reassigned to lieutenant.
Pitt Police shouldn’t restructure the entire organization of their force without asking for students’ feedback, let alone without notice. Students shouldn’t see University employees wearing symbols from a countermovement that was created to parody and devalue anti-racism efforts in our country.
If the University really does want to “embrace diversity and inclusion,” and “act upon a deep mission of social justice,” why are they choosing to alienate and hurt our students of color?
Other stories from vol. 13, issue 5:
Our Response to Pitt-Greensburg’s New Media Guidelines
Professors Find Creative Ways to Communicate
White Rabbit Café Works Through COVID-19 Pandemic
I Voted in Person so You Didn’t Have To
Side-by-Side: Should Students Turn Their Cameras on During Class?
Stream Your Heart Out: “Helstrom”