Brown University police chief resigns amid 'defund the police' demands

The chief of Brown University’s police force will resign after several months of student activism against the university’s police department.

Some students at the school demanded that the university "abolish" the Department of Public Safety.

Mark Porter, Executive Director and Chief of Brown University's Department of Public Safety, will resign from his position after several months of student activism against the university’s police department.

Porter — who served for more than fifteen years at Brown — was commended by Brown Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy, Russell Carey, who noted his efforts to establish “departmental diversity and inclusion action plans, which have resulted in a more diverse work force.” 

Porter received the Distinguished Community Contribution Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Providence branch in recognition of his work. However, the last several months of Porter’s service was marked by activism against Brown’s police force. 

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For instance, a student organization called Grasping at the Root published a list of demands, which included the complete abolition of the Brown University Department of Public Safety.

“Brown University must confront the ways it contributes to the harmful conditions that leave Black, Brown, poor, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and disabled Rhode Islanders vulnerable to predatory policing, both on and off campus,” said the group’s demands. “Brown University is the only private college in the state where campus security employees are sworn police officers with arrest powers. Brown serves as a ‘private’ extension of the carceral state, directly contributing to antiblack policing practices in Providence.”

In addition to completely disbanding Brown’s police force and severing relationships with the Providence, Rhode Island Police Department, Grasping at the Root demanded an end to “community policing initiatives and campaigns such as Coffee with a Cop, Cooking with Cops, Cocoa with BroPo, and Pizza with the Chief.”

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In June, Brown University President Christina Paxson wrote that “activism locally and globally is raising important questions” about policing in the twenty-first century. The university would “consider critical questions related to the reimagining of community policing that are responsive to campus community voices and the national dialogue around policing” in evaluating its police department.

Emma Rae Phillips, president of Brown University Students for Trump, told Campus Reform that although it is hard to see her classmates’ attitudes without being on campus, she does not think it would be “going out on a limb” to suspect that her classmates “are not supportive of police.”

“I’m personally so thankful for the campus police at Brown who assisted me last fall for an issue that otherwise could have been quite scary,” she added. “I don’t know if their negative attitudes led to his resignation, but I can imagine it must be quite difficult to be in that position when the students you’re protecting are running around chanting ‘ACAB.’”

Campus Reform reached out to Brown University and Porter for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft