Community Advisory Board seeks input from students, community members on future of DPS

The board, assembled by President Folt, continues the next phase of their research.

The Department of Public Safety Community Advisory Board (CAB) wants to hear from you. Through Feb. 20, they will continue to survey students, faculty and community members on their experiences with DPS.

The Co-Design Public Safety Sessions are part of CAB’s efforts to change how DPS operates on campus and in the surrounding community. Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, one co-chair of CAB said the sessions are meant to be hands-on and interactive for attendees. They are not “listening sessions,” Dr. Hancock Alfaro said, rather, they are active conversations meant to solicit ideas for change.

“I’m very clear that that’s one thing that students should expect next week...we’re going to ask you to help us design something,” Dr. Hancock Alfaro said. “It’s not that your experiences don’t matter. They are very important and we want to hear them, but we’re not going to just stay there. And definitely know it’s because we intend to make a real change.”

Dr. Hancock Alfaro clarified that it’s not because the CAB wants to dismiss individuals’ experiences with the department. Rather, the board strives for the future of DPS to be shaped actively by both the school and the community.

The Co-Design sessions are categorized by the five subcommittees of the CAB: Scope of DPS, Race and Identity Profiling, DPS Interactions with the Public, Best Practices for Campus Public Safety and Community Engagement.

The board voted on subcommittee topics after considering what surfaced during the CAB’s eight Pilot Conversations in the fall. These sessions were invitation-only and got the ball rolling for how the board should go about conducting their survey regarding issues of race and discrimination.

“We did kind of a quick and dirty analysis of the evidence from what we heard in the conversations,” Hancock Alfaro said. “And then we as a CAB really went around and kind of talked about both of the things that President Folt had kind of like asked us in the mandate of the CAB to address, plus the things that came up through the pilot conversations.”

The board originally came up with a list of nine topics they wanted to address, and through a democratic process, voted on the most important issues. The four topics that did not have their own subcommittee dedicated to them are now weaved into general CAB conversations, so “no issue got left off.”

“It was just a matter of how we were going to do the work,” Hancock Alfaro said.

Despite what one may think, the CAB is not an entirely new entity on campus. It was originally formed in 2015 by then-Provost Michael Quick, with similar goals of eliminating racial profiling in DPS practices. According to an Annenberg Media report, the board only met twice during the 2016-2017 school year, and nothing actionable came out of the meetings.

President Carol Folt announced the revival of the CAB in a June 11, 2020 email, referencing the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the need for the board to be “fully implemented.” Students also suspect posts on Instagram detailing Black students’ difficult experiences on campus on the @Black_At_Usc account could have something to do with the move.

A November 2020 report by USC Annenberg’s Beacon Project also detailed a pattern of racial profiling by DPS observed by Black students.

The CAB was one of six actions Folt unveiled in the email, including removing the name Von KleinSmid from the Center for International and Public Affairs and vowing to appoint a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO).

President Folt kept her promises on her plans so far, as the name was removed and 19 members were appointed to the CAB over the summer break. She also announced the appointment of Christopher Manning to the role of CDIO last week.

Dr. Erroll Southers was appointed to co-chair the CAB alongside Hancock Alfaro. Southers has worked at USC for 18 years but worked in three different law enforcement agencies on various levels of government prior to academia. He has experience on a Community Advisory Board with a Long Beach municipality, and is the Director of the Safe Communities Institute at USC Price — an organization which advances public safety strategies and policies.

Southers said he was excited to take his experiences and put them to use at USC.

“It’s not often in your academic career that you get contacted by the President of the University and requested to participate,” Southers said. “So I was honored to have her reach out and humbly accept it [the appointment].”

The rest of the CAB is made up of academic, neighborhood, and student representatives also appointed by President Folt. Once the subcommittees were established, these representatives were assigned one to help oversee and they will be helping lead that session’s Co-Design conversation.

Starting today, there will be one session per day on each subcommittee topic continuing through Feb. 20. Those interested in attending can pre-register on the CAB’s website, although it is not required. The conversations will take place over Zoom.

Once the sessions wrap up, the CAB will discuss their findings and plan to have recommendations for President Folt as to how the university should move forward. They hope to have draft recommendations by sometime in March, and a finalized plan by the end of the year. Part of the recommendation may be to have an “ongoing” CAB Hancock Alfaro said. “So, we’re not a task force in that way.”

The CAB may also continue to hold what they call Kitchen Cabinet conversations, which emerged out of a want of more students to get involved with the CAB.

“What’s really interesting is that we’ve had a number of people come to us and say, you know, I would have loved to have been part of the cab. And unfortunately, we wanted to have a cab that was limited in scope to 19 people, but we didn’t want to leave people out,” Southers said.

The Kitchen Cabinet meets once a month over Zoom with no agenda. Students are able to freely speak their minds on a variety of topics, such as why there are security guards at USC’s libraries, to personal experiences they’ve had with DPS.

“It’s a great opportunity to have an open agenda, to clear up some misconceptions, to discuss some strategies, to explain some processes or policies, policies, and just get to know each other better,” Southers said.

The next Kitchen Cabinet conversation is Feb. 25 at 10 a.m.

To follow the other work of the CAB or register for a Co-Design Public Safety Session, visit their website or Twitter account.