Police Chief opens up about investigation

Students and staff express frustration and hope for Chief Peterson’s investigation

Students and staff had the opportunity to ask UPD Chief Donn Peterson about the university’s investigation about the alleged comments he has made to fellow officers. 

Peterson spoke to and answered questions from students and staff members at the African American Center for Academic Excellence on Nov. 21 as part of the AACAE’s monthly advisory panel. 

“We are, in this space, addressing real changes in regards to racism and equality, ” said AACAE Coordinator Douglas Smith.

“It’s definitely important for students to directly engage with law enforcement administrators, who are making decisions and affect student experience here on campus,” Smith said. “It doesn’t happen in a lot of places where you have the opportunity to interact with the police, the police chief. They don’t always make themselves available.”

Peterson opened up about the allegations and investigations at the meeting.

“No, those things aren’t true,” Peterson said. “I will tell you right now that I want to be here. I have never ran from challenges.”

Some attendees spoke of the trust that they felt was broken by the allegations, while others asked more probing, but hypothetical, questions about what would happen if the investigations found any truth to his statements.

In response, Peterson said, “If anything that is alleged is found true, my usefulness here has ended. I need to be out of here, I need to be gone. But it won’t.”

While the tension within the room varied from question to question, Peterson reassured all that he was still dedicated to his job and stated that his first priority was always campus safety.

Serena McGee, Event Development Assistant for the AACAE said that opportunities to talk to leaders when issues arise are important and need to continue in the future

“I’m really glad we were able to hold this space for this event. We could still be a neutral space, and accomplish our same goal which is to bridge the gap. It was probably uncomfortable, and despite personal feelings as staff members, we were still able to hold this space and people were able to come out.”

“We can rely on each other, our staff members and faculty, said McGee. “If we have certain feelings about this we should talk to each other so we know we are not alone, so we can feel supported as students.”

Speaking with students and organizations outside of the event, some expressed disappointment with how the investigation into Chief Peterson has felt slow. 

Victor Parra, Marketing Specialist for El Centro, spoke to the apparent lack of action taken to explicitly condemn Chief Peterson and his actions.

“I’m thinking that there needs to be direct statements from administration,” Parra said. “Our president released in the newsletter information about the racist vandalism in the resident’s halls, but he hasn’t really said anything about what Peterson is accused of saying.”

“As a student, I definitely feel that Chief Peterson should not be involved in our community,” Parra said. “I don’t think he can rectify the statements he made. If you were really behind and advocating for students, you would do something about someone who is saying this kind of stuff.”

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