KU PSO Vehicle

A University of Kansas task force on community-responsive public safety held a town hall with community leaders Monday evening.

The University of Kansas campus police office doesn’t monitor whether its police officers are a part of potentially white supremacist online groups, unless a formal complaint is brought forward to the office, KU Public Safety Police Chief Chris Keary said at a town hall Monday evening. 

Keary’s response stemmed from a question he was asked at a public meeting hosted by the KU community-responsive public safety task force. The task force reviews KU Public Safety Office’s policies and procedures, according to a message from Chancellor Girod in August. Girod opened the task force up, after a resounding call to defund or abolish police systems in the United States, but particularly here at KU.

Keary was asked at the meeting through a filtered question and answer session how campus police monitor the online behavior of their officers, considering a minority of police officers nationally have been found participating in white supremacist online groups. 

Usually, campus police aren’t alerted by their officers’ online actions, Keary said, unless they hear a complaint from a community member.

“Anyone has the right to think how they want as long as it doesn’t impact their jobs,” Keary said.

Task force chair and School of Public Affairs and Administration distinguished professor Charles Epp began the meeting by providing a brief overview of what the task force has been working on since its creation.

So far, the task force has heard from representatives of the student group AbolitionKU, whose goal is to abolish the KU police department, Epp said. 

Monday's listening session was held in a town hall format where members could submit questions to a moderator. Many of the questions regarded the overall procedures of the KU PSO, specifically as they relate to recent conversations about the relationship between the police and underrepresented communities.

“We’ve used opportunities of unfortunate events in the past months to talk to our officers about it and tell them that isn’t something that’s allowed anywhere in law enforcement,” Keary said.

Several participants asked about the training provided for KU police officers.

“The KU police department is very progressive in their training and probably has more training than many other agencies in the state,” Director of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center Darin Beck said.

One participant asked about the department’s lack of diversity.

“Unfortunately, we are having a difficult time recruiting police officers,” Keary said. “When it comes to gender [diversity], out of our 31 officers, 4 are women and 1 is a sergeant so I think we’re actually doing pretty good when it comes to gender [diversity].”

The task force also addressed questions about reporting use of force incidents, transparency within the department, among other things.

The group has 25 students, faculty and staff members. 

The task force previously held two other listening sessions on Sept. 17 and 19. During those sessions, members of the community could talk individually with members of the task force and share their experiences with the police at KU. Previous sessions were not open to the public to keep the identities of those who wanted to speak anonymous. 

The task force is planning to release a proposal draft to the public to get community feedback before delivering its final report to the chancellor in November, Epp said.