Following an incident in which six Barnard Public Safety officers physically restrained Alexander McNab, CC ’19, demanding to see his Columbia ID, Public Safety policies across schools have been subject to increased scrutiny and criticism by the student body.
The incident called to attention questions about anti-black biases within Barnard Public Safety, leading many students to advocate for increased transparency regarding Public Safety’s policies and procedures.
Student reactions such as the Black Students’ Organization’s “A Brief History of Anti-Black Violence and Policing at Columbia University” cited specific incidents of anti-black violence throughout the University’s history, sparking discussion on systemic racism and discrimination on campus.
Three days after the incident, Barnard President Sian Beilock announced that Barnard’s Public Safety training procedures would be reviewed. Additionally, Beilock created the Community Safety Group, composed of students, faculty, staff, and experts who will review Public Safety procedures and policies. The six officers involved were eventually placed on paid administrative leave, while an external investigation was conducted.
The investigation’s results, published just this month, revealed significant issues with policies for officers. Notably, the external investigation found that Barnard Public Safety policies and procedures were largely outdated, and the department lacked established methods to disseminate new policies. Currently, there are no clear guidelines for the use of force or interactions with non-Barnard affiliates.
In regards to the incident involving McNab, the investigators concluded that while the officer failed to de-escalate the situation, his actions were not racially motivated.
Following the report’s publication, Barnard announced that it would act promptly through a national search for a new executive director of Public Safety.