This article mentions police violence and may be triggering for some readers. The Peer Support Centre offers drop-in services and empathetic peer-based support and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Online services can be accessed here.
With Homecoming around the corner, police, parties, and Part I Summons are at the forefront of discussions on campus.
On Sept. 20, Care Not Cops, a police abolitionist coalition of students and community members, held their first open workshop. The group discussed the police presence on Queen’s campus, and the AMS peer security service Queen’s StuCons.
“We want to be promoting more networks of care amongst the Kingston community and Queen’s students, focusing on taking care of each other, rather than intimidating each other,” Jessie Forbes, ArtSci ’20, and member of Care Not Cops said in an interview with The Journal.
Care Not Cops, formerly known as No Cops on Campus, was founded in 2022 when the London Police set up a booth in the Queen’s Centre to recruit students, according to Forbes.
The group is concerned by Queen’s pledge to donate $750,000 to the Kingston Police over five years, which started in 2022. Queen’s hasn’t invested in harm reduction strategies, such as the Campus Observation Room, which remains closed during the winter, according to Forbes.
“We have to ask ourselves why that is. What is it really about? Is the school really concerned about safety? Or are they just do they just want to control us?” Forbes said.
Care Not Cops has heard from racialized students, queer students, and disabled students about experiences where they were targeted by the police present on campus. For Forbes, increasing the presence and funding for police on campus will hurt students who are members of these equity-seeking groups.
On campus, the AMS operates its peer-to-peer security service, the Queen’s StuCons. They work at AMS-sanctioned events where alcohol might be served, such as faculty formals, or events at Clark Hall Pub. When on the job, StuCons check IDs, provide crowd control, and help intoxicated students get home.
“It’s supposed to be students meeting students where they’re at and providing services for them that ensure that they can participate safely in the Queen’s social community,” Queen’s StuCon Head Manager Caroline Jarrett said in an interview with The Journal.
The StuCons are a hands-free service and don’t use physical force, according to Jarrett. Though all staff have some form of self-defence training, they can’t dole out extreme punishments. Instead, StuCons report incidents to members of the non-academic misconduct office, who follow-up on the issue.
Jarrett herself has never formally reported a student and has opted to follow up with faculty leaders on intoxicated students after the event. Most of the time, StuCons call and pay for taxis when students are intoxicated. Contacting Walkhome is another option when encouraging a student to leave an event.
The StuCons have been working to rebrand the service this year and were mentioned at the Care Not Cops workshop on Friday. Members discussed whether the StuCons were an example of policing on campus, or harm reduction, as they don’t carry weapons and are Queen’s students. For Forbes, the answer was clear.
“Once someone is given the power to kind of enact punishment on someone, that peer to peer relationship is gone,” Forbes said.
In past years, Forbes recalls seeing StuCons go on “power trips,” an accusation Jarrett said is muddled with misunderstanding from the past.
“Since joining as the head manager last year, it has been my primary effort to ensure that the StuCons are not supposed to be a power trip sort of service for students, it’s supposed to be the complete opposite,” Jarrett said.
Previously, the AMS has tried to understand the relationship between students and the police. In 2021, a survey conducted by the then AMS Social Issues Commission found 78 per cent of students described their interactions with police as “poor” or “very poor,” with 88 per cent of students stating they didn’t support Queen’s funding Kingston Police.
The results of the survey led to a petition being created, which was signed by 2,000 people. The petition called for the City to reallocate the $350,000 pledged to the police by Queen’s in 2021 to social services. The petition didn’t lead to any reported action.
“Many students are food and housing insecure, but they’re (Queen’s Administration) putting more money towards police, they’re putting more money towards controlling us, rather than helping us,” Forbes said.
For Jarrett, the police remain a necessary presence, especially during party weekends. According to Jarrett, there is a fine line between when the police are beneficial or not, but overall, their services are needed during times like Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day.
“If people are climbing telephone posts at Hoco, that’s extremely dangerous for not only themselves but the people around them, as well as the community at large. I personally, as a Queen’s StuCon, I will not be climbing a telephone post after them,” Jarrett said.
Care Not Cops will be hosting workshops to prepare for large party weekends, such as Homecoming and St. Patrick’s Day, training students to hold the police accountable by teaching members how to take badge numbers, when to film an incident, and to call emergency services when someone is injured.
“The [Queen’s administration are] already not listening to us. We’re just going to take action ourselves and start caring for each other ourselves,” Forbes said.
A previous version of this article contained the incorrect year Care Not Cops was founded. Incorrect information appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of The Queen’s Journal.
The Journal regrets the error
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