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Senate votes in favor of transparency and police body cameras

Police body cameras have been a hot topic around the country, even on college campuses. The topic came up at a Student Government (SG) Senate meeting Tuesday night in the form of a resolution titled "In Supportof a Safer Campus," which requested that University Police (UP) look into equipping officers with the devices.

This was partly inspired by research done by USF associate chair of the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences in Mental Health Law and Policy Wesley Jennings, who equipped 46 officers in the Orlando Police Department and used a control group of 43 for a full year.

His team reported that use-of-force instances decreased by 53 percent, making both officers and civilians safer.

“This is actually a resolution that me and some of my colleagues in the Senate have been talking about for a while,” Sen. Rahma Elmohd, one of the resolution’s authors, said. “(the) Black Lives Matter (movement) highlights this epidemic against people of color.

“What we want to do, is we want to make sure that while the media is covering this, there’s so much attention and finally this issue is being addressed, we as a university are taking part in making sure those issues … are eradicated on our campus as well.”

Eastern Michigan University invested $17,000 in 43 body cams to equip its full university police force. That came to $395.35 per camera. At that price, to equip the UP force of 52 members, according to its website, would cost approximately $20,558.20.

“This is a great initiative, but it seems kind of random,” Sen. Melisa Dincer said. “I don’t know if we need cameras on campus as of right now. I’d like there to be more conflict before we make a statement. We can make a statement about anything … but it doesn’t really mean anything unless something’s happening.”

Despite the debate, the resolution passed 37-5.

The Senate also passed three bills: the Improving Transparency bill, which will look at trying to make SG more visible to the student body, the SPOUSE bill outlining the order of succession if the Senate president becomes unable to fulfill his or her duties, and Title VII, which reworked election procedures.

The ‘Improving Transparency Bill’ passed 34-5. This measure requires committee chairs to upload agendas and minutes to the “appropriate website,” but does not specify which website that is, and clearly stated the roles of Senate Officers.

Though Sen. Aladdin Hiba offered concerns that the bill won’t actually improve transparency, its author, Sen. AlaEldean Elmunaier insisted it would.

Title VII set the precedent that during elections, there will always be two voting booths open on campus — one in the Marshall Student Center and another at second location around campus.

The bill established that the midterm election applications will be open from the beginning of the fall semester until the third Friday of September.

Additionally, the measure allowed for campaign material during elections to not need approval from the Election Rules Committee (ERC). The bill passed unanimously.

“During the midterm election, we saw so many grievances simply because people hadn’t gotten prior approval,” ERC Supervisor Carson Sadro said. “Otherwise, the material followed the rules perfectly. In my opinion, those are grievances we didn’t need.”