Campus News

ASM passes legislation requesting transparency on UWPD equipment

Student Council passed legislation introduced by Tyriek Mack, above, advocating transparency from UWPD on the equipment they own.

Image By: Gage Meyer

The Associated Students of Madison Student Council passed legislation Wednesday urging the UW-Madison Police Department to be transparent about the equipment it owns and intends to own.

Passed by a vote of 18-4, the legislation says that UWPD should annually update a list of its equipment because “student tuition dollars could be used to purchase militarized equipment.”

The legislation also specifies that if UW-Madison acquires items on the Prohibited or Controlled Equipment List of federal Executive Order 13688, passed by President Obama in the wake of Ferguson and other instances of police militarization, that the student body should be notified.

Tyriek Mack introduced the legislation to Student Council, positioning it as part of the greater Black Lives Matter national platform. Mack expressed concern about the lack of information students have about where tuition dollars go and what equipment UWPD has access to, and insisted this was a necessary, proactive measure.

“I think it’s important to have this transparency with UWPD because as a society, we have to hold our police forces and other institutions accountable so they make economic and social decisions that benefit us,” Mack said.

Other supporters of the legislation on Student Council emphasized that not knowing what equipment UWPD has can be psychologically damaging to the student body. Proponents also argued community control of police is necessary because this issue is not hypothetical, citing military-style equipment on other college campuses such as Ohio State University.

Prior to passing, however, the legislation sparked a long, contentious debate. Some members wanted to open a dialogue with the administration prior to passing a demand, and argued that the proposal would have more legitimacy if ASM had that dialogue first. Others worried the transparency would create security concerns for UWPD.

Some opponents of the legislation also worried that its tone was accusatory, it set a bad precedent for ASM’s relationship to administration and the tactic was too severe. These concerns prompted the legislation’s supporters to cite passages from Martin Luther King Jr. concerning moderates’ hesitancy to take direct action.

The legislation designates that Chancellor Blank has until Sept. 30 to meet the expectations of Student Council.

“I actually doubt that UWPD has tanks. I doubt they have 50-caliber weapons,” Mack said. “However, I don’t know that, and the only way we can know for sure is if UWPD gives us a list of their equipment. Till then, it’s just speculation.”

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