As national discussions swirl around police and citizen relations, various University of Maryland officials responded Thursday afternoon to University of Maryland Police’s investigation results that deemed the use of force at a May 21 Courtyards party was justified.
Two of the officers who arrived at the party after receiving a call used pepper spray to disperse the partygoers. Police Chief David Mitchell announced Thursday that one of the officers — who had displayed “conduct unbecoming an officer” — has been suspended for two weeks without pay for this incident.
Campus leaders such as Kumea Shorter-Gooden, the university’s chief diversity officer, said in a statement that “this incident has been very disturbing for our campus community, particularly our Black and African American community.”
She went on to say she is “grateful that a network exists to support our students and that we are addressing what happened in direct and meaningful ways.”
With the formal investigation completed, Oscar Barbarin, professor and African-American Studies department chair, said he feels more confident that students will be treated respectfully.
“I have a lot of respect for [Mitchell],” Barbarin said. “He has been very forward-thinking and very responsive. … The response of suspending the person [an officer involved] for poor judgment sends a very strong message that things that police might have ordinarily gotten away with in the past are not going to be tolerated under his administration.”
Student leaders such as Student Government Association President Katherine Swanson also emphasized the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between students and police.
“My first reaction was to reach out to my cabinet to see how they felt,” said Swanson, a senior government and politics major. “I’m a representative of the students, and I wanted to make sure I’m representing them.”
Students will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the investigation with Swanson as well as suggest ways to improve students-police relationships, she added.
“I’m really encouraging students to reach out to me in any way that they can,” she said. “All I can work to do now is better relations between the police and the students, and I’m committed to that.”
The Residence Hall Association said in a statement that their advisory committees would be working with University Police, the Department of Resident Life, SGA and other campus groups to “engage in constructive dialogue on improving student-police relations.”
The RHA also thanked University Police in the statement for an “open and transparent” review of the incident.
“We support the department’s recognition of the role that implicit bias may play in their interactions with the campus community, and applaud their decision to require implicit bias and diversity training for all UMPD officers,” the statement said.
Staff writers Kimberly Escobar and Lexie Schapitl contributed to this report.