The Associated Students of the University of Nevada hosted a Conversation with the Police Tuesday to encourage communication between the university’s Police Services and those that they serve. Students and faculty were invited to join them for free pizza provided by the Blind Onion in the Joe Crowley Student Union and ask officers questions openly.
Questions asked by the public centered primarily around the controversial events that have taken place in the last few months involving university police — including an officer joking about shooting a black graduate student and another officer dressing up as UNR alumni Colin Kaepernick with a sign that read “Will work for food” for Halloween.
Students asked about the actions Police Services will take in the future, should events like these happen again. The questions were answered predominantly by the University Police Chief, Adam Garcia.
Questions asked by students were focused on several main concerns — including the Police Service’s racially biased actions, motives and transparency with the students. They were also concerned about how the department was choosing to handle the controversial situations.
For example, a student asked why the department was placing the officer who pulled over a graduate student and said he was going to “shoot him if things go sideways” on paid administrative leave during a Title IX investigation.
According to Garcia, the decision to place the officer involved in the incident, Adam Wilson, was made in an attempt to resolve the issue while the investigation was taking place.
Students found this to be frustrating and an inadequate action due to Wilson’s inappropriate language used during the traffic stop towards the graduate student, who is black.
In response to Wilson’s actions, fellow officer James Appleton said that he hopes people understand that before everything, police officers are humans.
“As police officers, we’re not robots,” Appleton said. “We are humans, and we have to make decisions that affect your lives.”
Due to the department’s interaction with the black graduate student at a traffic stop, some students are also fearful for their safety. This stands particularly tall for minority students on campus.
When a student asked Garcia how the department was going to try to make students feel safe, he shared the department’s plans to embark on new permanent training to assist in situations where a student may commonly feel unsafe.
According to Garcia, the department is going to “work diligently” to help all students feel safe on campus.
Students are also quite concerned about the transparency between the police and the students. This is mainly regarding investigations about events occurring within the department, as well as on campus.
The department is hoping to open a floodgate of interaction and communication between themselves and the community, although they hope the community can understand what too much information is.
“Any investigation dealing with any employee in the state of Nevada is confidential,” Garcia said. “There is very little we can talk about.”
Olivia Ali can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.