In collaboration with a group of Black University of Notre Dame students, and after receiving suggestions from them as well as from faculty, staff and alumni, the Notre Dame Police Department (NDPD) has developed a report that includes acknowledgement of past problems, a commitment to equitable policing and a comprehensive series of initiatives designed to create a more fair, impartial, diverse and just organization, highly trained and dedicated to protecting and serving all members of the University community.
“We have listened closely as our students have shared their concerns surrounding the interactions people of color have had with our department over the years,” NDPD Chief Keri Kei Shibata said. “We had areas in which, frankly, we needed to improve.
“Now, we’re building upon strides we’ve made as a department in the past with the addition of recommendations offered by students and others and new protocols in law enforcement nationwide and on university campuses in particular. The result is a public policy position and set of enhanced police practices that will continue to hold our department to the highest standards and, we believe, are among the best in the nation.”
The equitable policing statement begins with: “We, as members of the Notre Dame Police Department, must stand together with our community in the wake of injustices that have been plaguing our nation and our communities. We must not allow the seeds of discord and racial intolerance to take root in our department or in our lives.”
It then acknowledges law enforcement’s role in systemic racism found in the United States and that NDPD is part of a “criminal justice system that needs to improve in many ways.” It commits the department to standing together with “our Black and Brown brothers and sisters” and to act when witnessing “oppression and injustices that are taking place, even if it means confronting our colleagues or our supervisors.”
The statement concludes with a commitment to keeping the Notre Dame campus a place where “students, faculty and staff, and guests and visitors can come and experience all that Our Lady’s University has to offer without fear.”
The NDPD report includes the many initiatives and policies that have been implemented in the past and more recently, including:
- Stand-alone de-escalation training was completed this year to enhance previously implemented de-escalation policies for enforcement actions such as citations, arrests or no-trespass orders, or use of physical force, with the goal to take the least invasive action possible to resolve an incident while also ensuring the community’s safety.
- The department’s suspicious appearance policy prohibits dispatchers from sending officers to a scene if the information received is based solely on a person’s appearance. Dispatchers were trained this summer to ask follow-up questions to determine if there is actual suspicious behavior that warrants sending an officer to a scene.
- An expansion of diversity recruitment initiatives to complement an internship program that has been utilized extensively by people of color, some of whom have been hired into other police departments.
- Meetings this summer with members of the student diversity council and various student clubs to work on relationship building, resulting in the creation of Unity Summits this semester with student clubs and employee resource groups.
- Research-based training on implicit bias for law enforcement (since 2016).
- University-wide diversity and inclusion training.
- Crisis intervention training on how to engage with people in mental health and other crises (since 2013).
- A response-to-resistance policy that is consistent with best practice use-of-force policies, requiring officers to use force only when objectively reasonable, and to immediately cease using force once their lawful objective is attained, and to render aid if someone is injured. Of particular note, neck restraints and chokeholds are prohibited (since 2016).
- All complaints are thoroughly investigated and any complaint of bias or discrimination is referred to the University’s Office of Institutional Equity for investigation.
- The department does not have riot gear or offensive riot control weaponry. Clear shields and helmets intended for use in rescuing people in active violence situations were acquired in 2017.
- In-car cameras (also known as dash-cams) have been standard in all Notre Dame police cars since at least 2005, and officers are required to activate them when initiating a traffic stop or any kind of enforcement action. Tasers also have cameras built into them that automatically begin recording anytime tasers are activated. In addition, numerous cameras on campus are reviewed anytime a complaint is filed.
- A committee regularly reviews policies to ensure they are in line with the best practices in progressive policing, including guidance provided by organizations such as the Police Executive Research Forum, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators and The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
In a message to the campus community Aug. 24, Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., acknowledged that the University must do more to create a just campus. Among many initiatives, he committed to seeking diverse applicant pools and creating opportunities for advancement for high-potential employees of color.
Nearly 25 percent of NDPD’s overall force and 27 percent of its leadership are people of color, and the department is about to add two more officers of color.
The full NDPD equity in policing report is available here.