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Instances of Department of Public Safety officers stopping people on campus have declined by more than half since early 2008, according to detailed field-stop reports from DPS. The reports, which the department began releasing in 2007, also suggest that officers have not been conducting stops in a racially-biased manner, members of an oversight committee that reviews the data said.

DPS officers performed many fewer field stops through June 2009 than in the first half of 2008, the data show — 54 people were stopped in the first half of 2009, compared with 130 in 2008. Between July and December 2008, 95 people were stopped.

The reports break the numbers of stops down by race, gender and university affiliation of the party stopped.

Mark Porter, director of public safety, attributed the decrease to a general decline in crime on campus. "We've managed to reduce crime, so it goes hand-in-hand that our stops would be down," he said.

"We're all gratified that the number of stops has gone down," said Associate Provost and Director of Institutional Diversity Valerie Wilson, who sits on the Public Safety Oversight Committee.

Wilson said she and the rest of the committee were satisfied with the information these breakdowns yielded.

"We looked at the data in great detail, and I think we were all very satisfied with the information we got," Wilson said. The stops, as outlined in the report, seem to be "even-handed," she added.

"There is a general sense that officers are emphasizing appropriate discretion, and there does not seem to be bias," Wilson said.

Indeed, the demographics of those stopped reflected in the data mirror the racial breakdown of the general student body. More men than women were stopped despite the fact that Brown's student body tilts slightly female.

Concerns about bias in DPS's field stops ignited the campus in the fall of 2006, when officers who detained Chipalo Street '06 MA'07 faced accusations of having used excessive force. The incident spurred students to found the now-defunct Coalition for Police Accountability and Institutional Transparency.

That incident, Wilson said, provided a "real educational moment."

Since then, DPS has made several moves to increase transparency and communication with the community, officials said. Those included creating the PSOC and releasing the field stop data.

"All of those things that were unanswered questions in the past are now right there in the data," Wilson said.

The goal of the reports is to enhance the community's trust in public safety officers, PSOC member Evan Holownia '11 wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

"I think that DPS releases the data for the sake of transparency, so that there are no questions as to the validity of an officer's decision to stop individuals or motor vehicles when there is suspicious activity," Holownia wrote. "The reason for publishing the data, therefore, has to do with students' right to be aware of the details surrounding investigatory stops and inquire about their legitimacy."

Wilson said the report was symbolic of a wider effort on the part of DPS to communicate with the Brown community.

"The numbers only tell one part of the story," she said. "Greater communication out to the community — that's the other part of the story. And communication has been much better around the whole issue of the presence of the police and public safety on campus."

Shane Easter '10, who joined Co-PAIT after the Street incident occurred early in his freshman year, said he applauded DPS's efforts at transparency but remains skeptical of DPS and the data.

"I want to have faith in DPS and assume that those numbers are valid numbers," he said. "The fact that they are keeping track of those numbers is an important effort, and I commend them for making that effort."

Wilson said that she does not believe the decrease in stops is indicative of flagging commitment on the part of DPS to pursue leads or report data.

"I think this just means a good job is being done here," she said. "I think the information presented is comprehensive."

Senior Vice President for Corporation Affairs and University Governance Russell Carey '91 MA'06, also a member of PSOC, echoed Wilson's sentiments.

"We have a high degree of confidence that officers are documenting these stops appropriately," he said.

In addition to increasing transparency, DPS has made an effort to improve of the clarity of its grievance procedures.

Anyone stopped by DPS has the right to ask why, Porter said, and those who think they have been unfairly targeted may file a complaint.

"Students should know that they have every right to question officers' decisions to stop them, especially if they feel that the stops were unwarranted or inappropriate," Holownia wrote. "PSOC reviews complaints and cases to ensure that there is no misconduct."

DPS officers receive training on how to appropriately handle a stop, Porter said, including education about how to identify what legally merits a stop and detailed training on how to conduct themselves during a stop.

The reports are not limited to information about field stops. They also show that in the first six months of 2009, DPS reported about 19,000 service and emergency calls, about 11,000 of which were summons to University buildings for routine problems like lock-outs. The calls resulted in 873 incident reports.

Officers performed 21 motor vehicle stops between January and June this year, up from 17 over the same priod in 2008, according to the reports. DPS officers were first given authorization to stop suspicious motor vehicles in January 2008.

According to Porter and Carey, the field stop report was originally launched in 2007 as part of the department's Field Stop Integrity Initiative, which aimed to "enhance the department's policies and protocols around field incidences" and prevent bias, according to Porter.

Porter and Carey said the FSII came primarily out of the decision, made in early 2006, to allow DPS officers to carry firearms.

"It was around that time that we were arming the department," Porter said. "We wanted to make sure that we had the best practices for being proactive about insuring impartial policing."

Carey said that the decision to implement the FSII did not come directly out of the Street incident, but rather from a general impulse toward greater transparency.

"A large part of it is around the issue of trust," Carey said, adding that officers' ability to protect the community "is directly related to the relationship the students, faculty and staff have with the officers."


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