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Seattle University and the Seattle Police Department

June 10, 2020

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President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., responds to questions raised about Seattle University’s relationship with the Seattle Police Department (SPD).

As I and others have affirmed recently, Seattle University collectively stands in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and our Black students, faculty and staff and renews our commitment to better support and educate our students and community, including those of us in leadership roles, on issues of racial justice, police brutality, oppression and systemic racism.

With protests taking place in our nation, city and neighborhood following the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, questions have been raised about Seattle University’s relationship with the Seattle Police Department (SPD). Specifically, concerns have been expressed about SPD using the campus parking lot next to the fitness center during protests on Capitol Hill. When the issue was brought to my attention, I felt it was important that we take action to stop it and ask SPD to discontinue using the parking lot or any part of campus. This was communicated to SPD yesterday. While I regret that we did not move sooner to make this happen, we will actively monitor campus to ensure that SPD is complying with our request and no longer using our lot.

Seattle University does not have a formal or financial relationship with SPD. The university’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) is a non-commissioned civilian department that focuses on campus safety, not law enforcement. Public Safety officers do not carry firearms. When necessary, DPS coordinates with Seattle Police and the Seattle Fire Department during emergency and other safety situations on campus. For a number of years, Public Safety has also worked with neighborhood groups and Seattle Police on ways to better address community concerns on issues of safety and law enforcement. 

Faculty and students in areas including the School of Law and the Department of Criminal Justice often do research or related work with criminal justice agencies throughout the region, including SPD. There has been a significant amount of good work focused on reforms in the criminal justice system and policing and addressing issues of police brutality.

Seattle University will continue to assess and evaluate how it interfaces with SPD as part of our wider responsibility to actively advocate for racial justice. It is imperative that we use all the resources we have as a university in terms of teaching, research, discourse and engagement to stand with our Black community in support of anti-racism and against white supremacy. Let us join together in committing to do this work for a better future that affirms Black Lives Matter. 


Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.


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