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Sunday, March 03, 2024

UWPD officers begin patrolling university crosswalk, face student, faculty backlash

To stop illegal crossings, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department has started stationing officers on University Avenue between Charter and Mills

As ongoing construction blocks off the sidewalk, students have been crossing illegally and dangerously to get to their classes on time. On Tuesday, officers began patrolling at busy crosswalk lights during class changes, while also working on education and enforcement efforts for students.

Individuals who illegally cross will first receive warnings from the UWPD. If violators ignore warnings, they may then face fines of $150 or more depending on the type of violation. 

UWPD Lt. Ryan Jesberger said that UWPD made the decision to institute patrolmen due to “multiple complaints of pedestrians nearly being struck by vehicles while crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.” 

They announced the decision via Twitter with a GIF of a woman prancing. As of Wednesday, the post garnered 64 quote tweets and 31 comments, with community members quick to criticize the UWPD’s message. 

Students and professors, in particular, took to the comment section of the tweet to air their complaints about UWPD’s peculiar choice to include a GIF with the announcement as well as the decision itself. 

“The way that they tried to make this tweet cheeky with a gif,” @alexislynn24 commented. “There’s nothing funny about an abuse of resources.”

Dr. Sami Schalk, a UW-Madison Gender and Women’s Studies Professor retweeted UWPD’s post, commenting that students have only 15 minutes before classes and that “multiple sidewalks and corners in this area are inaccessible due to construction.” She hashtagged the tweet with “#PeopleOverProperty, #ACAB #DefundThePolice #NoCopsOnCampus.” 

Other Twitter users had more to say, @dudesrockHQ commented that the UWPD has “never seen a jaywalker like me,” while user @ceeccal wrote that she “wore [her] velcro adidas today so [she could] outrun UWPD after crossing university.”

Lennox Owino, ASM Vice President stated that there are many ways that UWPD could have found alternative ways to solve the jaywalking problem, “that would not necessarily involve police presence or the punishing of students who are just trying to get to class on time.”

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“I’m extremely dismayed to see UWPD taking such an aggressive approach to a design problem,” said Tyler Katzenberger, the ASM press office director. “Their increased presence is especially harmful for Black and Indigenous students who are more likely to be stopped, fined, and possibly even assaulted.”

“While students should walk safely, the current issue is that construction is blocking key pedestrian routes on campus,” continued Katzenberger. “Students need more convenient ways to get to class on time — not expensive fines that make it harder for them to eat and pay rent.”

As for now, the UWPD will continue patrolling the crosswalks during class changes and periods of high traffic.

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