KU to create police oversight board, implement mental health training following task force study

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The University of Kansas will implement all 12 recommendations posed by a task force on community-responsive policing, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod announced Monday.

Most notably, the university will create and implement an oversight board for the KU Public Safety Office, its on-campus police force, by the beginning of the fall semester. The university and KU PSO also will work to expand crisis mental health training and integrate the KU community into ongoing mental health partnerships between Douglas County, the city of Lawrence and local mental health practitioners.

“As I’ve said since the outset of this process, KU for decades has benefited from having its own on-campus public safety office. As a university, we can be proud that we embraced this opportunity to be part of the national movement related to policing and proactively sought out enhancements to the way we provide public safety service to our campus,” Girod said in a statement Monday. “I am confident the task force’s recommendations will ensure KU Public Safety continues to be an asset to our community for years to come.”

Girod commissioned the 26-person task force in summer 2020 following the murder of Minneapolis, Minnesota man George Floyd and nationwide protests over police brutality. The group ultimately issued the 12 recommendations, which were broken down into three categories: responses to behavioral health crises, officer conduct issues and advisory and oversight processes.

KU PSO took quickly to instituting several of the recommendations, particularly in revamping its use-of-force policy to comply with new national guidelines formulated in 2020 during former President Donald Trump’s administration. The department also posted the new policy to its website, in addition to a summary of KU PSO officer use-of-force incidents over the past five years.

Finally, KU said it would continue a recommendation from the task force to gather data on the race and ethnicity of those stopped by PSO officers — a task that was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, Girod said KU Public Safety Chief Chris Keary, Vice Provost for Operations Mike Rounds and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Tammara Durham would be the administrative leaders in charge of ensuring the recommendations are implemented.

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