Adonis Tuggle is the latest victim of police violence at Purdue. On February 4th, Mr. Tuggle, a Purdue University student, was thrown to the ground by Purdue police officer John Selke. Selke then put his elbow on Tuggle’s neck as Tuggle pleaded with him to get off as the pressure of Selke was chocking him. Selke’s actions became known to the public only due to Adonis girlfriend recording it while screaming at Selke to get off of Tuggle.
Video of the episode drew more than 1,000 impassioned students to Lilly Hall Thursday night, demanding action from the administration and Purdue police. Organized by Purdue’s Black Student Union, attendees demanded that Purdue take immediate steps to address this act of police brutality and to prevent similar events in the future. These included providing more thorough police training in de-escalation and sensitivity to historical mistreatment of African-Americans by police.
These suggested reforms only partly hit the mark. Campus police, like police generally, are more likely to create than defuse violence and racism where they work.
Many campus police are former public police, who bring with them the typically racist and trigger-happy tendencies of their former employers. In July, 2015, University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed African-American Sam Du Bose, who was driving his car near the campus. Tensing had previously worked as a cop in Greenhills, Ohio. After he was acquitted of criminal charges in the killing, Tensing was actually paid money by the University of Cincinnati.
The Tensing case, like the Selke case, demonstrates that campus police are prone to the same biases and tendencies of brutality as public police.
Closer to home, Lafayette Police Department put an attack dog on African-American Richard Bailey, Jr., in 2020. The dog mauled Bailey, tearing his throat apart and hospitalizing him.
Just as students and community protesters demanded accountability from the University of Cincinnati and Lafayette Police, so should Purdue students and community towards the Purdue University Police Department.
The first step towards meaningful change would be one suggested at Thursday’s Town Hall: reallocating funding for campus police to areas of social welfare, like Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). This defunding approach would prioritize the health and safety of the Purdue community without the threat of police violence hanging over it.
A second step would be Purdue investment in undermining the hostile climate for minorities on campus. As many speakers pointed out at Thursday’s Town Hall, no one cares about Black people at Purdue. Purdue African-American enrollment is just 2% percent of the campus population. This compares to a Black population in Indiana of nearly 10%. These numbers are anemic, embarrassing and contribute to the climate that encourages white police attacks on Black students.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels also has a horrible public record on race. As someone noted at the Town Hall, in 2019 Daniels drew national outrage when he referred to outstanding Black scholars as “rare creatures”. In the past Daniels refused to investigate white supremacist flyering on Purdue’s campus, leading to a six-month student occupation of the Administration building.