TO THE EDITOR:
Chancellor Folt has asked us to clarify the role of campus police officers at the Confederate Monument on our campus in light of misinformation that has been in circulation. There’s nothing more important to our University and our police force than the safety and wellbeing of every member of our campus community.
We care deeply about our students and our community’s rights to free speech. Our officers do their best to protect the safety and freedoms of everyone in our community.
The safety of our campus is always our highest priority, and out of necessity, UNC Police have maintained a heightened presence around the monument to ensure that members of our community are safe and able to protest peacefully and have their free speech rights protected.
By nature, public college campuses present unique challenges for campus police because members of our campus community and outside groups often come together to protest or to participate in other activities.
Specifically, we have been and remain concerned about our students getting caught in the middle of violent conflict similar to that experienced in Charlottesville, especially in the presence of the monument.
To protect the safety of people on our campus, police response sometimes involves the use of plain-clothes or undercover officers.
Although deploying undercover officers on our campus is rare, it is a standard policing practice that has been used on other university campuses (i.e., when threats associated with public spaces are credible, crowds have formed, tensions are high or unknown individuals with questionable intent are on campus).
While we understand that people would like information about specific instances, we simply cannot share every detail with the public that would compromise the work of our police.
The recent use of an undercover officer on our campus was limited in both time and scope and was necessary because of extraordinary circumstances that included the very real potential for a violent outbreak at any time.
Our officers do not monitor the content of any protest beyond the public safety implications nor do they create reports about students or their law-abiding activities.
Police officers are there to protect participants’ safety and listen to their concerns. It was never our intention to create a situation that would suggest otherwise. If you have read or made assumptions to the contrary about our campus, they are not true.
We must always be concerned about public safety risks, and our officers have spent hours in training to ensure our campus community remains safe.
Over recent years campus police have worked tirelessly to ensure that peaceful demonstrations and freedom of speech are preserved and protected.
Our officers are an important part of our community and feel as much a part of this campus as all of us. If you have questions, please contact one of us.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Safety and Risk Management
Chief of UNC Police
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