By Georgie Hicks
The last issue of this publication included an interview of Stacy Brown, the new Evergreen chief of police. Within that article Brown made several comments that I found unacceptable and in need of dissection.
Brown says that in her time as a student at Evergreen–she graduated in 2006– she never saw anything like the protest that occurred at her swearing in, “I never would have imagined that would come from the Evergreen State College I mean we’re peaceful, right?’” Brown continued, “I didn’t see anything like this when I was here—heated discussions, sure, but they were always civil.”
I find it concerning that the new chief of police seems to have no understanding of the current political atmosphere, on this campus or the nation at large, which has been quickly becoming more radicalized in response to police brutality, murder and enslavement in the prison system committed and perpetrated by this nation’s police force. Black Lives Matter and local events such as the shooting of local black men Andre Thompson and Bryson Chaplin have pushed this radical resistance into the mainstream.
It seems odd that Brown, who has been a Police officer for the Lewis County Deputy’s Office for the last 20 years, hasn’t heard of any other protests at Evergreen. Notably the protest that occurred on campus in 2008. Information about this protest is easily accessible—a riot occurred during a Dead Prez concert on campus during which a police car was flipped over and the police were chased off campus, all of which was widely reported on by the news.
Considering that Brown’s swearing in ceremony did not occur until winter quarter of this year, I would assume that before accepting the position she would have made herself aware of the numerous and ongoing direct action protests at Evergreen throughout fall quarter of this year.
All this this with the added bonus of the inclusion of the word civil, a word which currently and historically has been used to delegitimize and shut down black and brown people often fighting against uncivil treatment in the first place. A willingness to use this word connotes a lack of understanding of racial issues in this country. With this, along with her mention of things like this not happening in 2006 and her general demeanor when speaking about policing, it seems Brown may be stuck in ideology from the past. Brown’s attitude seems disturbingly reminiscent of arguments for America as a post-racial or colorblind society, an ideology that has proven to be false and harmful.
Brown’s previous statements coupled with her admittance that the police do regularly use and watch Facebook to keep tabs on students has me quite worried about Evergreen’s choice of chief of police. Are we just supposed to accept the fact we live in a surveillance state? Shouldn’t we be concerned that Police Services and the administration is admitting to watching Facebook– that they admit to having students who provide information about student planned actions? That they shut down planned protests that are not only completely legal but also intended to be peaceful? In the last issue of POC Talk I questioned whether I would believe the school if they put out a statement alleging they weren’t spying on students, but I never thought that the chief of police would come right out and admit to it.
Brown goes out of her way to seem to dismiss “bad apples” in the police force as if it is reasonable to compare police to other professions stating, “I know that there are bad apples in every bunch, whether it’s teachers or doctors or cops.” This statement show a disregard for the differences in the power that police hold over citizens versus the powers that doctors and teachers possess. When doctors murder people in need of medical help they lose their license unlike police, as we saw with the officer who killed Eric Garner and the non-indictments of many other police who have murdered black people. If a teacher slams a 12 year old student on the ground they would likely lose their job unlike police, as we saw with Janissa Valdez a sixth grader who was violently thrown on her face by a school police officer, an instance seen by many to highlight the urgent need to remove police from our schools. In both of these instances people in any other profession would almost definitely go to jail, but police on the other hand can disregard their “duty to protect” citizens and walk away scot free.
Brown has expressed commitment to promoting “community policing” which is really just police lingo for police public relations campaigns and programs that encourage snitching, destroying any real sense of community as more of those around us become part of the police surveillance apparatus. Her idea that reforms to foster community engagement with police would address the problems of policing illustrate a complete disregard for the threat that police pose, and a misunderstanding of student’s problems with having police on campus.
Brown says that she cannot talk to people who don’t want police at all, painting them as unreasonable, which seems par for the course with the school’s dismissal of the fact that policing is a racist and classist oppressive tool used to keep down and imprison the most vulnerable citizens.
Police services and campus police may argue that campus police are here to help students and are less harmful that other policing institutions. However, even campus police are part of an apparatus that criminalizes and enslaves Black people and those who attempt to take action against white supremacy. This is seen in their cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, in addition to the active role that Evergreen police have historically taken in repressing students who attempt to change the status quo and social order.
This school’s police have a history of spying on students, in 2009 it was revealed that the campus police shared information about student groups with John Towery, an informant working with the US military. The school also has a history of collaborating, and sharing information with local police. Her willingness to admit to surveillance of students is incredibly scary and unacceptable. She also supports increased camera surveillance on campus, seemingly claiming funding to be the only setback.
In their choice of Stacy Brown for campus police chief, Evergreen has given power to another white person that as no understanding of racial issues. Brown, and by extension the school, seems to think the white perspective is the only one worth considering, a perspective that this administration is already full of.
You yourself can be a “good” cop all you want but you still uphold an unjust system– complacency and participation are support. The day when Black and brown people are no longer profiled, brutalized, murdered and enslaved in the prison system because of the color of their skin by your “brother and sisters” in the force is the day I will maybe consider feeling sorry about your hurt feelings over All Cops Are Bastards (ACAB) signs and chants. You may be hated for the uniform you choose to put on, but I was born in my skin.