Students urged to question the freedoms they may lose through increased safety measures

We ask a lot from those who are assigned to protect us. When crime happens on campus, we want to know what’s being done and why it happened in the first place. We expect the police to keep us safe.

But as college students, we are uniquely aware of the rights that make up our freedom as citizens. Sometimes, these two things are in tension with each other. We give power to the police at the expense of our own freedoms; we trade freedom for security.

When the Daily Illini’s editorial board sat down with the University’s Chief of Police Barbara O’Connor and Deputy Chief of Police Jeff Christensen, their desire to keep the University safe was evident. They spoke of new, innovative strategies in deterring and solving crimes, including increased digital surveillance cameras. They want to centralize information at the police station about who enters a building with a key card and when. O’Connor referred to these measures as “force multipliers” that will allow University police to cover campus more effectively.

We think these are good ideas. We want the police department to be able to do their job well by providing security on campus in ways that are time and cost efficient. But we also want to think long and hard about how these measures will diminish our privacy. O’Connor assured us that residence halls will not be getting cameras, and the cameras will be designed to “black out” when they pass by a residence. However, the police will be able to tell when we go into a key-card access, and they will be able to monitor us as never before. Will you act differently if you feel you are being watched?

This could be a great thing. Crime could fall, and the real pain and devastation it wreaks on lives would fall with it. At the same time, we are centralizing power in the hands of the police – and while we think we should go ahead with these security measures, we also want to be keeping a watchful eye on the process. We want to be informed about how these measures will work and be able to ask the questions that need to be asked.

Some students will be excited about the new security measures; others will be hesitant. Whatever your feelings, express them. Don’t be afraid to question what is going on. Chief O’Connor and Deputy Chief Christensen demonstrated their openness to such discussion by sitting down for a discussion with us – that relationship between students and those who have so much power over our lives is vital. They also pointed out several misconceptions that both we and students at large have about how the police operate, and we should be aware of those.

These are not questions we can ignore; they directly impact us. Thoughtfully explore issues of campus safety, take the time to gather accurate information and express the opinions you will form as a result. We cannot just be bystanders with regard to safety on our campus; we must be engaged.