June 25, 2020

Dear CSU Campus Community,

This summer, many of us are actively engaged in conversations around the ways that race, racism, and anti-Blackness are woven into the fabric of American history and contemporary life. We are also participating in related conversations about the role of policing in our communities. In the weeks since the killing of George Floyd, we have seen communities and states commit to changing law enforcement practices by policy review and new legislation; you can read about Colorado’s recently passed bill here. Meanwhile, calls have arisen across the country for us to do more than legislate increased accountability and transparency but to explore and enact fundamental changes to the role of law enforcement in this country.

Colorado State University is committed to taking this journey.

We are ready to listen and to work with the activists, advocates and scholars who are challenging all of us to move beyond responding to specific issues when they become so urgent that they are unavoidable to proactively confronting the larger issue—racism in America—and working together to uproot it from our own lives, from our communities, and from our nation.

I use the term “we” here because this commitment is shared by CSU leadership and the CSU Police Department. Many of you will have read the statement that the department issued earlier this month; at the same time, Chief Scott Harris and his team sent me a statement outlining their alignment with the goals of the 8CantWait campaign, which demands that police departments ban chokeholds and strangleholds; require de-escalation, warning before shooting, and the exhaustion of all alternatives before shooting; stand by a duty to intervene; ban shooting at moving vehicles; adhere to a use of force continuum; and require comprehensive reporting.

While the new legislation in Colorado mandates adherence to most of these policies, our CSUPD has been aligned with them for years. The Department is also committed to listening to the community they serve. Chief Harris posted a letter today that clearly articulates the Department’s stance at this critical national moment. He writes that he has already told the entire CSUPD that “if we are falling short, if we are not listening, and if we are not open to change, it is a huge disservice to those we swore an oath to serve and protect.”

However, as the creators of 8CantWait recently acknowledged, focusing on specific practices within law enforcement has the potential to constrain what we can do—what we must do—as a nation. As the 8CantWait site puts it, positive “paradigmatic shifts … are newly possible in this moment.”

This is indeed a powerful moment, and as the land grant university of the state of Colorado, we must, we will be a part of it, taking the journey with friends and colleagues, and leading the way when we can. We know that our communities can be stronger, safer, healthier, and more equitable. Through the research of our faculty, the hands-on work of our staff, and the community engagement of our Extension professionals, we also know how those goals can be achieved, and we stand ready to partner across our state to make change.

I am convening a Task Force on Campus, Community and Personal Safety to make recommendations about what change at CSU will look like regarding humanitarian policing, personal safety and security, and campus climate. This group will include representation from our CSUPD alongside leaders from Academic Affairs—including faculty with expertise in relevant subject matter areas; Student Affairs; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and OEO. Members will be appointed and announced by July 1 and will convene beginning in early July. As with all the work that we are doing right now, including around the budget and our pandemic recovery plan, this Task Force will work collaboratively and transparently. They will issue a preliminary report on priorities and process by August 14.