How do college communities think about policing on campus?

In the context of a national movement to reimagine community policing, state and local governments are reevaluating their approaches to public safety and how public dollars are spent. College campuses are likewise facing decisions about how to address recent calls to reform or defund campus police.

The reimagining of the roles and responsibilities of campus police departments requires understanding the community’s experiences with and perceptions of the existing public safety infrastructure, as well as their needs and vision for the future.

In 2021, the Possibility Lab conducted a survey of 56,200 campus community members at the University of California, Berkeley and 23,000 members of the community at the UC Santa Cruz campus. The survey explored the relationship between UCPD and the campus communities they serve, with a specific focus on how campus stakeholders perceive campus police, what reforms they support, and how experiences and attitudes vary across different demographic groups on campus.

At Berkeley, 16% of community members responded to the survey. Approximately 66% of respondents were students and 32% were faculty or staff. Responding students were broadly representative of overall campus demographics, although White students were slightly over-represented in the respondent pool and Hispanic students were slightly under-represented.

At Santa Cruz, 10% of community members responded to the survey. Approximately 41% of respondents were students and 59% were faculty or staff. As at Berkeley, respondents were broadly representative of overall campus demographics. However, male, Black, Asian, Hispanic, as well as undergraduate respondents were somewhat under-represented.

When asked about support for 14 different potential public safety reforms, respondents at both schools voiced the most overall support for reforms associated with training and diversifying UCPD, and empowering the community through training and information. In particular, respondents reported high levels of support for bias and mental health training for UCPD officers; better training and information dissemination; and establishing a hotline, independent of UCPD, to report and address non-criminal incidents.

Respondents were least supportive of reforms associated with increasing reliance on surveillance and technology; reducing the number of UCPD officers; or abolishing UCPD. However, much like perceptions among the American public, experiences with and attitudes towards UC campus police are diverse and vary across demographic groups, including by race, ethnicity, and gender identity. Support for public safety policy reforms also vary by demographic characteristics.

These findings offer a foundation for efforts to ensure that the campus safety infrastructure adequately meets the needs of all community members, and that the future of campus policing is responsive to those belonging to marginalized groups most impacted by public safety systems.

This project was made possible with funding from the University of California, Berkeley.



UC Berkeley Community Survey on Safety and Campus Policing


UC Santa Cruz Community Survey on Safety and Campus Policing​

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