On Monday, Northwestern University officials released a report on the Northwestern University Police Department’s role and budget which revealed an $11.2 million operating budget for the 2020 fiscal year and a projected budget of $10.6 million for the 2021 fiscal year.
Since the 2011 fiscal year, NUPD expenses have grown annually by 2.6%. Around 90% of NUPD’s budget is spent on staffing, which amounts to an average annual salary of $118,919 including overtime and benefits. This number includes the salaries of NUPD leadership and Chief of Police and Senior Associate Vice President Bruce A. Lewis. The report designates 56% of NUPD staffers as “trained police officers,” while the other 44% are civilian security officers or communications dispatch officers.
Northwestern Vice President of Business and Finance Craig Johnson said in the report that it was part of a greater effort towards transparency and Northwestern’s social and racial justice initiatives.
“While this information will provide detail on campus safety operations, the ongoing work to ensure the safety of the Northwestern community must continue to evolve and bring representative stakeholders into this process,” Johnson wrote. “In the coming months, there will be many opportunities for our community to join in efforts to reevaluate what community safety could be like on campus.”
An ASG Community Dialogue is planned for Wednesday, giving students the opportunity to ask Northwestern administrators about the NUPD budget and other racial and social justice initiatives.
Community raises questions surrounding long-awaited budget
Student organizers and activists first began demanding Northwestern officials divest from police and invest in Black lives in June. According to reporting from the Daily Northwestern, Provost Kathleen Hagerty said there would be “no problem” disclosing NUPD’s budget on July 24, but after abolitionist group Northwestern Community Not Cops followed up with the Provost, they wrote they were “met with silence.”
Over the summer, NUCNC held phone and email zaps demanding Northwestern release NUPD’s budget. NUCNC began their daily actions against NUPD on Oct. 12. On Oct. 27, President Morton Schapiro promised an NUPD budgetary review by Nov. 16.
On Twitter, NUCNC questioned why Northwestern could not pay service workers laid off during the pandemic but could afford to spend $11.2 million on NUPD.
Some students questioned how much Northwestern spends on Counseling and Psychological Services in comparison to NUPD, as investing in the health and wellbeing of Black and brown students is a core demand of student abolitionists.
While Northwestern does not release CAPS’ budget, Northwestern’s website currently lists 23 counselors and 32 overall staff members, in comparison to the 38 police officers or police leadership and 67 overall staff members employed by NUPD. In other words, there are 976 students per counselor across both the Evanston and Chicago campuses, whereas there are 591 students per police officer or member of police leadership and 335 students per all NUPD security staff at both campuses.
NUPD officers undergo racial bias training but numbers suggest they stop Black people disproportionately
NUPD staff, police officers and community service officers receive training on unconscious bias and on strengthening community trust and relationships, according to the report.
“UP [University Police] is committed to tackling implicit bias to avoid conditions that can lead to discriminatory practices,” the report states.
While the report says police officers hired by NUPD are required to undergo 560 hours of training at a police academy and 70 extra days of training outside of the police academy, equivalent to the length of less than a year at Northwestern, it does not state how many hours of training are spent on implicit biases and community trust.
The report breaks down the racial demographics of NUPD field stops in 2018 and 2019, noting that 53% and 77% of stops, respectively, involved individuals unaffiliated with the university, which they used as reasoning to compare the field stop demographics to Evanston’s — and not Northwestern’s — demographics. NUCNC called the report’s graphics misleading for this reason.
Black students make up less than 10% of the undergraduate population and Evanston residents are 17% Black; however, of the 138 field stops in 2018, 27% involved Black pedestrians. White people, who make up 50% of undergraduate students and 59% of Evanston residents, made up 50% of field stops.
Per the report, Black residents are disproportionately involved in pedestrian stops. When compared to numbers reported to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which tracks pedestrian and traffic stops across Illinois’ police departments, the data suggests that the majority of stops which police escalated were of Black pedestrians.
IDOT only reports pedestrian stops involving a pat-down, citation, warning or arrest, while the numbers NUPD released in their report include every pedestrian stop, which are labeled as “field stops.” In 2019, according to IDOT data, of the 21 stops that involved a pat-down, warning, citation, or arrest, police stopped 13 Black pedestrians, compared to the 6 escalated stops of white pedestrians. Comparing data from both IDOT and NUPD reveals that 3% of field stops involving white people lead to escalation compared to 18% of stops involving Black people.
In 2018, 70% of pedestrian pat-down stops involved Black people. Of the 13 individuals NUPD arrested during pedestrian stops that year, 12 were Black, meaning 32% of the 38 Black people stopped by NUPD in 2018 were arrested.
Northwestern touts police officer diversity despite no strong evidence greater diversity leads to less police bias
NUPD is more diverse than most campus police departments, as half of Northwestern’s police officers identify as Asian, Black or Hispanic. A third of NUPD police officers are women, which the report says “is twice the average among campus police.”
NUCNC organizers pushed back on Northwestern’s celebration of NUPD diversity, posting a meme of a doctored quote of a character from The Office yelling “shut up about diversity” on Twitter. NUCNC also pointed to a Daily Northwestern article from 2014 about a female NUPD police officer who sued Northwestern for sexual harassment and gender discrimination at NUPD.
Research is mixed on whether female police officers are less violent and discriminatory than their male counterparts. However, a Justice Department report in 2018 found "a significant number of women across agencies and position types reported in our survey, interviews, and focus groups that they had experienced gender discrimination and differing treatment in some form including in promotions and other workplace opportunities.”
Similarly, experts believe racial bias in policing cannot be solved by hiring more Black officers, as studies show no evidence that hiring more Black officers changes the nature of racial biases in policing. One 2006 study found Black officers were more likely to arrest non-white suspects.
Police scholars agree that the cultural norms of law enforcement are the greatest determinant of racial bias in policing, including “the micro-cultures of individual departments.”
To NUCNC organizers, the culture of police departments cannot be reformed—and thus, racial bias in policing at Northwestern cannot be abolished unless NUPD is abolished and Northwestern turns to alternative forms of public safety.
Trent Brown contributed reporting to this story. Thumbnail by Amy Guo.