PLATTSBURGH — A SUNY Plattsburgh student’s arrest after a traffic stop last Thursday has prompted action from the college’s bias act response team.
The college, in a statement sent to students Saturday and posted on its website, said two Black students were pulled over by University Police officers Thursday night.
A two-minute video circulating on social media, which appears to have been recorded by one of the students who was in the vehicle, shows two officers attempting to detain the other student.
After a brief struggle, the woman being detained walked to the police vehicle with an officer holding her arm. She did not appear to be in handcuffs.
“What was this for?” the woman recording asks officers as they place the student in the patrol vehicle.
“That’s for resisting,” an officer appears to say in response.
University Police Chief Patrick Rascoe said in a separate statement late Sunday, that the students were pulled over on a Plattsburgh City street for driving with the vehicle's headlights turned off. The driver was arrested, Rascoe said, based on several additional violations, which were not listed in the statement. Her vehicle was impounded according to protocol, Rascoe said.
While officers attempted to arrest the student, Rascoe said the student, who was not identified, resisted, leading the officers to use physical force by gripping her arms and walking her to the University Police vehicle.
Rascoe said the interaction with the students presented an opportunity for officers to offer a "trauma-informed, student-centered response that our officers always strived to provide."
"However, last Thursday night we fell short of this goal," Rascoe said in his statement. "I understand that the driver and her passenger felt fearful, threatened, and traumatized by the events of that evening. I also understand that the campus community is feeling hurt, angry, and additionally traumatized by the knowledge that some of our police response was neither trauma-informed nor student-centered, as the focus remained solely on proper process and procedure, without accounting for the students’ very real fear and confusion around the events that were rapidly unfolding."
SUNY Plattsburgh President Alexander Enyedi said the college’s Diversity Incident Response Education and Communication Team, which oversees the college's response to bias incidents, hate speech or hate crimes, has reviewed dashboard video, offered support to the student who was arrested and referred the incident to the college’s human resources department.
Enyedi said he has also reviewed the police footage in a step toward determining what comes next.
“I fully recognize that what these two students experienced is rooted in a larger systematic pattern of oppressions inflicted on Black, Indigenous, People of Color,” he said.
“At SUNY Plattsburgh, we have the obligation and the opportunity to do better and be better as a diverse campus that tolerates nothing less than equity and inclusion for all who work and study here.”
Enyedi said he’s considering long-term responses to “address broader issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion for our BIPOC community.”
Rascoe said he has been in ongoing conversations with Enyedi on what those responses could be, which he said included forming a student-police campus relations advisory group and other ideas.
"It is my expectation that in the coming days and weeks, as we work to address and further respond to this issue, UP will become better and stronger, and together we will move forward and begin to heal as a community," Rascoe said.
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