We can’t expect to reduce police presence without practical alternatives.
Queen’s AMS representatives met with the Kingston Police Services Board (PSB) Oct. 19 to ask them to stop applying the University District Safety Initiative (UDSI) outside of expected dates. Under the UDSI, students caught violating Ontario liquor laws receive a Part I Court Summons, meaning they must appear in court before a Justice of the Peace.
One advantage of the Part I Court Summons is that it requires students to physically face the consequences of their actions. Paying a fine doesn’t require any physical action. For many of Queen’s more affluent students, paying a fine may not feel like a negative consequence at all.
However, AMS Commissioner of External Affairs Julian Mollot-Hill explained to the PSB the continual enforcement of the UDSI is intrusive for students.
Despite Queen’s 2023 Homecoming having resulted in fewer nuisance parties than previous years, the Kingston police issued $13,000 more in fines this year than they did over Homecoming weekend in 2022. Another difference between this year’s Homecoming and last was increased police presence.
Increased police presence can be an added danger to students insofar as it introduces the possibility of police violence. Students belonging to racialized groups are disproportionately at risk of being targeted by police.
Kingston residents pressure the City to restrict Queen’s parties, resulting in the PSB sending police to the University District. Simultaneously, some residents of Kingston disapprove of the heavy police presence around the university, as it indicates the direction of their tax dollars towards students’ partying.
Yet, for the well-being of students and residents, it’s understandable that preventative safety measures must be taken against unsanctioned events.
In addition to encouraging negative perceptions of Queen’s University and Kingston, physical effects of Queen’s students’ partying seep past Aberdeen St. into the surrounding community. Street parties occupy and delay city-wide resources like street cleaning and emergency responsive services.
The Gordon Edgar Downie Pier, a public space, had to be closed to the public over Homecoming weekend to prevent students from jumping into dangerous open waters while intoxicated.
The police have the authority to extend the issuance of Part I Court Summons past the UDSI. However, their failure to communicate their plan to student stakeholders was problematic.
The PSB’s lack of transparency suggests their disinterest in collaborating with the AMS to devise approaches that promote harm reduction over police presence.
The AMS acted responsibly, representing all Queen’s undergraduate students in attending the meeting with the PSB. In the future, the AMS could facilitate more productive discussion with the PSB by arriving equipped with larger supportive data sets and suggestions for plans that provide alternatives to the current policing apparatus.
Without the cooperation of the PSB, however, there’s only so much the AMS can do. We can’t abandon the current system without practical alternatives.
Alternative approaches could benefit from applying the lessons learned by the Part I Court Summons—presenting actionable steps as consequences appears to be a more effective deterrent than fines. Rather than being fined, students could be tasked with community service hours that offset their demand on City resources, like having to clean up garbage in the University District or on campus.
Collaboration between the AMS and the police can yield a solution satisfactory for both, but not without good faith communication from a party that yields significant power over students.
—Journal Editorial Board
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