Students, faculty and staff at SIUE have the power to involve police in a situation with a simple phone call — but many of them abuse this power.
It is important to do whatever we can to prevent violence from happening, and there are situations in which the most reasonable way to do this involves police intervention.
There are, of course, some circumstances in which the presence of armed figures of authority can be beneficial — such as instances of abuse and public safety — as it can prevent further violence from happening.
However, this does not pertain to the vast majority of interactions to which police are alerted, specifically on SIUE’s campus.
The campus police blotter is full of incidents in which officers were summoned in response to innocent behaviors that were deemed ‘suspicious’ by an onlooker, including instances of loitering and suspicious odors, among many others.
By directing the police’s energy and resources to insignificant issues, they are prevented from dealing with the issues which are more deserving of their attention.
In most situations, the presence of a uniformed police officer will only escalate a conflict because their presence carries the implicit threat of state violence.
People can be made to cooperate as a result of police intervention because the police have the legal right to use physical force in situations where they consider it necessary in order to enforce the law.
Even if that violence never happens, the understanding that it could happen shapes the interaction between the police and the people who are forced to interact with them.
When we call the police, we do not just invite people who are willing to resolve a conflict; we also invite potential violence.
There are many reasons violence could happen following the decision to involve police, including a lot of miscommunications with no ill intent behind them.
It is irresponsible to report a person to the police without first considering whether a person’s actions are worth the threat of violence.
For some lucky people, the presence of police officers can be comforting rather than a source of anxiety, and some of these people are willing to weaponize that luck against other people who they consider a nuisance.
I would like to ask these people to consider the effects of their actions, respect that many people have very good reasons to feel differently about police, and try other approaches.
Every conflict is unique, and no solution is universal. Many situations are better handled interpersonally, perhaps with the help of a friend instead of an on-duty cop. Others are better left alone entirely and will only be unnecessarily complicated by outside involvement.
Some inclinations people have for reporting others, such as revenge, a dislike of certain smells or a gut feeling that they might be up to no good, are rarely worth acting on at all, and are not adequate cause to involve police.