Update: Drexel Police Activity on May 31
[NOTE: Please refer to the Anti-Racism Task Force's July 30 Correction and Apology regarding this statement for important clarification.]
To the Drexel Community:
There have been questions about the presence of the Drexel Police on 52nd Street on May 31 during a day of unrest and lawful protest by residents against the murder of George Floyd and other acts of racism and police brutality.
As background: through a formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Philadelphia Police Department and as indicated by state law governing the police, the Drexel University Police Department (DUPD), like other private police departments in Philadelphia, has agreed to respond to emergencies when the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) calls for assistance.
DUPD was requested to assist the PPD on May 31 after the protests had become disorderly. Drexel Police do not have tear gas and were not involved with the deployment of tear gas. They assisted with traffic and security on the perimeter, attempting to detour traffic and pedestrians. In particular, they were asked to watch a building in the area of 52nd and Market Streets.
One officer was photographed holding the arm of an individual. According to an investigation into that incident, the officer was assisting the individual, who was in need of medical attention. The resident had fallen to the ground, and the officer was supporting their effort to get medical aid.
While this is what we have learned of DUPD’s deployment, we are aware that there have been concerns raised about the level of force used by the Philadelphia Police Department in the face of protests on 52nd Street that day. The recent report by the Philadelphia Inquirer paints a disturbing picture of escalation and excessive force on the part of some police officers. To our understanding, there is currently an independent review of all police activity on 52nd Street by the Philadelphia Police Department.
Drexel University, like the rest of the City of Philadelphia, seeks the truth about any inappropriate behavior and calls for immediate action and any necessary reform as a result of the investigation.
Finally, while we are confident that Drexel Police were not involved in excessive force on May 31, we know that their presence raises legitimate questions from the Drexel community. Seeing Drexel Police on 52nd Street so far from campus was upsetting for many. We agree that the incident calls for a thorough review of our policies. These questions are acknowledged and will be addressed transparently and fully. They will be brought to the Police Review Advisory Committee, which is being formed and will be working with 21CP Solutions on the review of DUPD. This incident and a recommendation for University policies will be specifically addressed in the report to the Drexel community following this review.
Kim Gholston, Subir Sahu, Aroutis Foster, Lucy Kerman
Co-Chairs, Anti-Racism Task Force