After two open forums for members of the George Mason University community, a meeting with resident advisors and a meeting with resident directors, the Presidential Task Force commissioned to investigate the Mason Police Department’s interaction with students will meet Monday to begin discussion of what will appear in an interim report to President Alan Merten.
Communication professor Peter Pober, one of the two co-chairs of the Task Force, said today’s meeting is the first time the group will discuss its findings. After the interim report, due to be sent to Merten by mid- to late May, the Task Force will compile a final report which will be submitted at the end of June.
The Task Force engaged resident directors and advisors, and collected 42 written documents outlining interaction with police in addition to hearing 16 to 18 testimonies from members of the Mason community who spoke at the open forums, Pober said.
The overwhelming majority of people who spoke at the two open forums expressed concern with the Mason Police Department. Most of the concerns came from students detailing interactions they had with police officers, according to the transcripts.
Students at the open forum were given five minutes to speak to the task force and the reports ran the gamut. Conflict analysis and resolution major Keenan Hartless spoke of a series of messages he received from a threatening individual and the lack of interest he perceived to be shown by Mason police to his dilemma. Conversely, Barry Geisler, general manager of the Patriot Center, said, “I’ve had the good fortune to work alongside the police in handling many events here at George Mason at the Patriot Center, and over that time I guess I’ve developed an appreciation for police work.”
“Everybody’s been very positive about [the task force],” Pober said. “They’re appreciative that the president called for the Task Force, appreciative of the forum and sincerely hope that the recommendations that come out of this will be carefully addressed by the president.”
Pober said he believes a number of people feel like there should be more consistency from both police and students — consistency in the way specific situations are handled and a specific understanding of policies on both sides.
The Task Force was called for shortly after Mason student Abdirashid Dahir was arrested on felony abduction charges stemming from an incident at Fenwick Library. The charges were later dropped, and an independent consulting firm specializing in institutional safety, Tomlinson Strategies, LLC, has been hired to investigate the policies and procedures that led to Dahir’s arrest.
“We are not at this point [addressing], nor do we intend to specifically address, the incident that led to the formation of the Task Force,” Pober said at the first student forum, according to a transcript. “There’s an external review taking care of that.”