A photo says a thousand words. Which words, specifically, are in the eye of the beholder, especially in the case of a photo that appeared on the CSU Monterey Bay Police Department Instagram account on Labor Day morning.
To the department it was simply an officer holding a pen at the ready to write up arrests as a warning not to drive impaired during the holiday. But to numerous members of the campus community who commented, it appeared as if the unnamed officer was making a white power hand gesture. The post was removed after it was “lost to a misinterpretation,” according to a written statement from CSUMB spokesperson Walter Ryce. “The officer in the photo was in the middle of writing a citation for an arrest and seizure of contraband, when the picture was taken impromptu,” the statement reads. “It was a picture of an officer doing a good job.”
CSUMB PD Chief Earl Lawson did not respond to a request for an interview. In written statements Lawson said hate or racism have no place on campus. All officers undergo background checks and there is no indication the officer has affiliations with white supremacist groups or ideology, Lawson said. The university did not respond before deadline as to whether there will be a third-party investigation.
The post comes in the aftermath of an incident in March surrounding the arrest of a student who had weapons and Nazi paraphernalia inside campus housing; students and faculty raised concerns that officials did not inform them of his arrest until media reports surfaced. They questioned Lawson’s conclusion there was no link between the student and hate groups.
In April, the Academic Senate and Associated Students approved a joint resolution demanding the campus police “relay transparent information” on hate crime activities on campus and called for a website to track hate and bias-related incidents. They also called on the university to be a leader in combating white supremacy in the region.