A message to the Penn community on Penn Public Safety

The United States is at a moment of national reckoning, confronting a long history of racist policies and practices that have perpetuated heinous injustices and have prevented our nation from achieving the ideals of justice, freedom, and equality we proclaim to the world. In particular, the terrible and needless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice, Rayshard Brooks, and so many others bring into stark relief the tense and too often dysfunctional relationship between police departments and communities of color in cities and states across the country.

Penn’s Division of Public Safety (DPS) personnel are trained to ensure the safety of our community. Their mission is nothing less than to provide a safe and welcoming environment to all people in support of the University’s goal of creating a caring community of learning, clinical care, research, and innovation in close collaboration with our neighbors and local businesses. Penn’s campus and the city that is our home are not static environments. They are dynamic, diverse, and vibrant communities that grow, evolve, and change socially and economically over time. We are committed to ensuring that our DPS professionals grow, evolve, and change to meet the needs of the community they serve. Specifically, they must continually be current in policing best practices, adept at building partnerships, and sensitive to every member of our campus community.

There is much about Penn DPS in which we can take pride. Among campus security organizations they are a national model, and like every other aspect of our University, always strive to embody excellence. As such, we recognize the vital necessity of continuous review to ensure all programs within the Division remain current and responsive to the changing needs and demands of our society and our communities. 

With that goal foremost in mind, we are announcing today that we have commissioned an independent review of Penn DPS by the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice at Penn Carey Law School. The Quattrone Center is a nationally recognized research center that conducts independent reviews of police procedures. Integrating world-class expertise from across the University with the perspectives of nationally prominent practitioners, the Center will employ a systematic, interdisciplinary, and data-driven approach to reviewing and analyzing all aspects of our safety and security programs. When this thorough and expert review is completed, we look forward to sharing its recommendations with the Penn community.

In response to the University’s relationship with the Philadelphia Police Foundation: Over the past several years, Penn has offered the Foundation nominal support in the form of purchasing tickets to attend annual fundraising events. The University, including Penn Medicine, will no longer do so.

We forthrightly acknowledge the situation we as a society find ourselves in today. There are some police departments that do not properly train their officers in conflict resolution, de-escalation, cultural awareness, and other forms of education that must always govern professional police response. Further, there are law enforcement agencies that fail to conduct independent reviews of their policies and procedures and do not ensure accountability when officers fail to follow polices and violate the sacred trust they are granted by society. That trust is critically important in all communities, but most especially in communities of color that too often bear the brunt of myriad economic and social inequities.

Penn is absolutely committed to ensuring that those all-too-common problems never take root in our Division of Public Safety and to learning what can be done better so that every member of our community is fairly treated and fully respected.