It seems that the president of SUNY Plattsburgh has taken a big misstep in addressing the recent incident on campus involving two students of color.

The college came out hard and fast essentially denouncing the University Police Department's action in the traffic stop that occurred on the evening of Oct. 21.

It is not sitting well with many in our community.

To recap, University Police pulled over a car that night that was driving without its headlights on. In their report, police said they were initially going to just warn the driver to ensure her headlights were operating properly.

But when they collected her vehicle information, they discovered there were problems with the registration and inspection sticker as well as the headlights.

Protocol called for them to take the tags off the vehicle, impound it, and charge the driver for the infractions, which were misdemeanors.

The situation soured quickly as the student and her passenger argued with officers loudly and extensively.

The incident was recorded by a dash cam from the police vehicle as well as the passenger, using a cell phone camera.

Within about 24 hours, SUNY President Dr. Alexander Enyedi issued a lengthy statement regarding the incident, and had consulted the college's Diversity Incident Response Education and Communications team, which oversees the school's response to bias incidents, hate speech or hate crimes.

"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," Enyedi said.

University Police Chief Patrick Rascoe echoed Enyedi's statement, saying the incident presented an opportunity for officers to offer a "trauma-informed, student-centered response that our officers always strive to provide."

"However... we fell short of that goal."

The reaction from the community as well as many faculty and staff on campus we're told, is that the president jumped the gun, and put out a statement that did not reflect the incident accurately, and blamed the officers unfairly.

After watching both videos of the incident, it is easy to see why there is such strong reaction against Enyedi.

The driver and her passenger were loud, rude, belligerent, disrespectful and uncooperative where it seems they didn't have to be. Those are all usually the ingredients for a negative experience when dealing with law enforcement.

The officers appeared to act professionally and with patience until the situation called for a more stern approach. One officer could be heard saying "Hopefully, this will be the one interaction with police that she has that will maybe change her decision about cops."

In the end, the officer did escort the student to the police vehicle, but there was no beating, no shoving to the ground and no pepper spraying.

No doubt Enyedi was trying to be sensitive to the situation, and he was concerned about the student's well-being after the incident as evidenced by his words: "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."

And to be fair, this is a larger issue than just two students not complying with law enforcement.

People have to realize that students of color from New York City and larger metropolitan areas in the state have a much different history with law enforcement.

Many have suffered at the hands of police, and are naturally wary of them whether they are in Brooklyn or Plattsburgh.

We understand that.

In order to help the situation, the college should consider ramping up programs to educate students from urban areas about what they might expect when they encounter local law enforcement. The situation is likely to be far different than what they might experience at home.

But in either case, it must also be stressed upon them that rude, disrespectful and uncooperative behavior is probably not going to lead to a good outcome.

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