Kingston Police talk post-Homecoming measures at service board meeting

AMS Social Issues Commissioner speaks to student perspective

Kingston Police forms committee dedicated to changing street party culture at Queen’s. 

On Nov. 18, the Kingston Police board held their monthly meeting. Among the topics discussed was police presence over the Homecoming weekends.

Inspector Matt Funnell began his presentation by stating the Kingston Police anticipated large street parties and gatherings during the Homecoming weekends.

Funnell explained this year was “unique,” with students fully back on the campus for the first time since March 2020.

Despite announcements that 2021 Homecoming weekend was set to take place virtually from Oct. 15 to 17, Funnell said Kingston Police decided to increase their presence in the student district after observing large gatherings in September that violated public health measures.

“We were inundated with 2,500 to 5,000 students who took over University, Johnson, and Earl [street],” he said. “On Sept. 2, another 1,000 students spilled over onto university [and] forced us to post [officers] on Johnson Street.”

According to Funnell, officers reported being “pelted with bottles” by students in September. He said one officer alleged they were assaulted with a plastic bag by a student.

“It was a level of defiance and violence we had not really seen this early on [in the school year],” he said.

By the second week of school, Funnell said Kingston Police decided to come up with a “strategic enforcement plan.” The process also included the City’s implementation of aggravated nuisance party bylaw and nuisance party bylaw.

Ahead of Homecoming, Funnel said Kingston Police learned students were planning back-to-back unsanctioned partying on Oct. 16 and 23.

“[Queen’s Homecoming] fell so far behind others [universities] across the province, as students were planning to come in Kingston for that week from another jurisdiction,” Funnell said.

Funnell specifically referenced online influencer Jack Denmo as someone who encouraged out-of-town students to come to Kingston.

“That made us realize pretty quickly that we were going to have a problem over back-to-back weekends to deal with,” Funnell said.

According to Funnell, 81 members of Kingston Police and 108 members of Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were deployed on Oct 15. Some officers had access to long-range acoustic devices—tools that allowed Police to declare nuisance parties over large crowds.

On Oct. 16, 31 members of Durham Regional Police arrived in Kingston to assist.

After Funnell’s presentation, Christian Leuprecht, professor at Queen’s School of Policy Studies, asked what kind of trends law enforcement has observed regarding the university’s party culture.

“Over the years, we’ve seen considerably more [gatherings],” Funnell said. “I think what’s very different and very concerning this year is the dynamic of that crowd and the behaviour that we saw.”

READ MORE: ‘This is an opportunity for us to be critical’: Policing beyond homecoming

Additionally, Chief of Kingston Police Antje McNeely said Kingston Police has formed a committee dedicated to changing Queen’s street party culture.

“We started early, even in this year, when we saw what was happening with the movements, we were also monitoring the trend of all the different universities—ours was the last one [to hold Homecoming],” McNeely said.

In an email sent to The Journal, Samara Lijiam, AMS Social Issues Commissioner, said responses and feedback received from students about their interactions with the police have been overwhelmingly negative.

“Students described being searched, detained, and arrested without being told the reason […] This widespread negligence of due process is concerning, and we are continuing to collect student experiences through the survey,” she wrote.

“We will be bringing these concerns to the City, Police, and Principal. We will also be releasing a report analyzing the findings of this research in the new year.”

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