Letter to the Editor: Time updating UMPD’s Facebook page could be better used elsewhere

As President Shalala’s e-mails regarding UM’s finances continue to pile up in inboxes, I am shocked to learn that the university effectively pays the UMPD to be on Facebook.

Perhaps a Facebook fan page is the missing weapon in the UMPD’s crime-fighting arsenal, but I suspect not. The fan page is a symptom of the inordinate amount of time and money the UMPD wastes when it isn’t busting college students for being college students.

UM needs a security force to protect students from outside threats. But it doesn’t need a self-righteous one that has new “candy” paint and hubcapped cruisers with enough equipment to make State Troopers jealous. We don’t need police motorcycles and police golf carts and police Segways. Southwest Airlines cuts costs by flying the same type of aircraft on all of its flights. Let’s see UMPD do the same.

Our campus is small enough that someone on a bike (or a Segway, if you must) can respond in equal or less time than it would take a car to drive from one side of campus to the other. Sell the expensive, gas-reliant cruisers, which inattentive officers use as La-Z-Boy chairs, and replace them with low-cost, “Green U” bicycles. Consistent, active patrolling – not stationary units – is the best way to give students and faculty peace of mind and to keep them safe 24/7.

Safety means protecting the loop-runners from muggings, it means preventing theft in the dorms and vandalism on fraternity row, and it means that students who commit what are essentially victimless crimes like drinking, using a fake ID and, dare I say, smoking, should be free from harassment and moralizing by a quasi-law-enforcement agency that has time for Facebook.

Instead of allocating resources to monitoring social behavior, the UMPD should ensure that students who wish to partake in a bit of college fun have a safe haven to do so to the extent that such behavior doesn’t have significant adverse effects.

The city of Coral Gables arguably has a more active police force than communist Russia with generally far less to do, so if a serious problem arises, let them do their job. Tax dollars, not UM dollars, should pay to incarcerate students.

If the UMPD wants fans, it needs to align its mission with the interests and needs of students and faculty, not be Big Brother’s Lil’ Bro. Until then, I think planting another Royal Palm Tree would be money better spent.

Ben Chandler (’10)