Race, Police & Justice: Voices from the Colgate Community

When I moved to the United States in 2011, I was quickly taught how to act around law enforcement. Reinforced by every suspicious, hateful glare you get walking past a police officer, it’s an unwritten rule in the Bronx. Each one is a little different, and you never quite know what the glare means, but you always imagine it is something along the lines of, “Stay in your lane, or I’ll make you stay in your lane.”

I got the message pretty quickly, and as a result I have always regarded law enforcement with the utmost deference. It was no different when I came to Colgate, despite the fact that I never really saw Campus Safety as a police force, just because they were usually nice and unintimidating, especially compared to what I’m used to back home.

That’s all gone now. The same anxiety and feelings of suspicion that I get from the NYPD is the one I now get when I see an unfamiliar Campus Safety car roll by. As I said, it wasn’t always this way; in fact it wasn’t this way until very recently. I had left something in the Career Services office, where I work. I had called Campus Safety to let me in like they had done several times before, but this time was different.

Not only did they refuse to let me in without “proof” that I work there, the person I spoke to seemed completely apathetic to my cause and to me. I was looked at, spoken to and attended to with a lack of respect. I was getting the same suspicious, accusatory look I always get from the NYPD, the same one every Bronxite gets.

I had never been asked for more than my ’Gate Card on previous occasions – but that wasn’t even the problem. It was the way the officer looked at me, the way the officer described my situation to colleagues, dismissing my claims while I stood there. The general mistrust and lack of respect for my entire situation. None of it made sense to me; why did I have to jump through hoops and be completely dismissed when I was being watched so closely by an officer anyway?

Needless to say, the experience stuck with me. For reasons outside of my control, the sight of a Campus Safety officer incites the same terror an NYPD officer does.