November 20, 2020


We hope this email finds you as safe and healthy as is feasible in the midst of all that the world has thrown at us this year. As you may know, President Carol Folt formed a Department of Public Safety Community Advisory Board (CAB) at the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester.

Underscoring the priority placed on the CAB’s mission, the Board reports directly to President Folt and is administered by the Provost’s Office and University Relations. As CAB co-chairs, we are honored to have been selected to steer this important effort for the University. We are equally excited to introduce you to the Board and report on our progress thus far.

Our Action Steps:

We are an action-oriented board committed to a community co-design process that looks at addressing issues with DPS as one part of what it means to feel safe in and around our campuses. We hope to achieve the type of inclusive collaboration needed to break down longstanding barriers to meaningful progress.

In order to do so, the CAB is undertaking an evidence-based examination of our public safety practices, including resource allocation, personnel, accountability, operational practices, and training. Our discussions draw on a diverse group of voices from across the institution and in our local neighborhoods.

We have taken great care this semester to agree upon our process going forward in a way that is consistent with values of community engagement, openness, and open-mindedness. As we discussed how to structure our board deliberations and the work ahead, a key need emerged. Specifically, we must identify the most pressing issues USC faces with respect to public safety and that the CAB needs to address, and we must develop responses that are specific and measurable, and that people will be held accountable for implementing.

In order to identify the issues, we have developed a two-stage effort that will be the bedrock of our community-design process. The structure of both steps is intended to be particularly sensitive to matters of confidentiality, trauma, and transparency, as participants share prior involvements by focusing on three areas:

  • Public Safety
  • Law Enforcement
  • Imagining the Future

The first critical step is the development of specific plans of action for community conversations that are frank about both the challenges and trauma-informed discussions of inequities that are likely to emerge. The CAB convened eight Pilot Conversations over the last two weeks with diverse sets of stakeholders to collectively think through how best to engage the entire University on issues relating to public safety and policing at USC. The purpose of these Pilot Conversationswas to craft a process open to participation from the whole University and our community neighbors. The Pilot Conversation step brings together people who may serve as “tipping point connectors” to the broader community.

Our second step will occur next semester and is equally critical to the progress of this effort. The CAB will convene university and community-wide Co-Design Public Safety Sessions. These sessions, which will be designed based on the results of the Pilot Conversation process, will provide a forum where community members can give voice to their lived experiences involving police, law enforcement, and public safety across the USC community.

The CAB will collect all the input it receives, and from that, create a set of actionable recommendations that will be presented to President Folt.

Realizing the call for action, we knew the priority for us would be to immediately focus on community engagement. To that end, the start of the Pilot Conversationshas been a sign of real progress thus far, though more is necessary of course. We also recognize there are several similar efforts at universities across the nation, and many have been operating for some time. We are reviewing their structure and operations, and will certainly consider best practices in those areas proving to be beneficial to our efforts in the USC community. We are focused on developing a CAB with an eye on effectiveness, sustainability, and the capacity to respond to 21stcentury challenges.

About Us: Our Board

Nineteen members of the greater Trojan community have agreed to share their time and talents to getting this work done right as members of the CAB. Our undergraduate and graduate students, Trojan parents, faculty, staff, community leaders, and neighbors from both the University Park and Health Sciences campuses have met five times during the Fall semester.

About Us: Our Scope

CAB represents a critical component of USC’s renewed efforts to remedy broader social inequalities within our community. The CAB will be a crucial factor in ensuring an environment where everyone feels safe and respected, and in strengthening the trust between the University, DPS, and the broader community.

President Folt’s announcement provided six areas of initial focus:

  • Race and identity profiling issues, including investigatory processes
  • DPS public safety procedures
  • Best practices for campus public safety operations
  • Processes for officer hiring, training, and disciplinary matters
  • Neighborhood community engagement practices and programs
  • Relationship with LAPD and the Los Angeles Sherriff’s Department

While we are committed to these areas for attention, we are not limited to them. We are committed to following where the evidence leads us in conversation with all sectors of the USC community – students, faculty, staff, parents, neighbors, and alumni. We welcome your engagement and feedback to ensure we acquire a holistic picture of what public safety means currently, and, as importantly, what public safety could mean to us going forward.

Our Governance:

CAB is a new board, so the development of its governance structure is a work-in-progress. We want to be clear that the Board has a mandate to make recommendations to Dr. Folt, including a recommendation regarding whether and how the CAB should be permanently institutionalized at the University. We are confident the diversity and depth of CAB member experience and expertise position us well to identify strategies in response to those important issues, but only if we can partner with the broader university community and establish trust and legitimacy by listening and then committing to action. We plan to issue recommendations at the end of the Spring semester as a landmark in a longer process to reimagine public safety here at USC.

Our Communications:

In addition to this university-wide update email, our website will serve as a hub for ongoing virtual connection with the community. We want to encourage you not to wait for periodic emails sent at major inflection points; please explore and engage with us virtually through our website and social media. You are also invited to follow the CAB on Twitter, at @USC_DPS_CAB.

Currently, the CAB site features an introduction and description of the CAB, board roster, an opportunity to share perspectives and provide input, and contact information for questions and concerns. We also intend to offer a link with answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding matters related to USC community public safety. We will also post the dates and RSVP information in the Spring for the Co-Design Public Safety sessions and updates on our progress as they become available.

Our Invitation: Get Involved!

The time for action is upon us, and it is with great enthusiasm we look forward to meeting, listening, and responding to matters regarding our public safety practices and increasing essential and sustainable relationships. That said, we also respect the process of being deliberate to ensure that the CAB is empowered to listen, analyze what we hear, and positioned to act on it. This is a critical point if we hope to achieve the type of inclusive collaboration needed to break down barriers to meaningful progress. We have much to do and encourage you to become part of the solution.


Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro
Chair, Department of Political Science & International Relations and Dean’s Professor, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Co-Chair, USC Department of Public Safety Community Advisory Board

Erroll Southers

Professor of the Practice in National and Homeland Security; Director, Safe Communities Institute; Director of Homegrown Violent Extremism Studies
Co-Chair, USC Department of Public Safety Community Advisory Board

University Park • Los Angeles, CA 90089