University Police – A Message to Our Community

The following message was shared with all SUNY New Paltz students, faculty and staff on Friday, June 5.

To Our Campus Community;

Watching the chaotic events arise across the nation over the past week, and seeing the murder of George Floyd in the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, I felt that as Chief of the University Police Department, I had to say something. Firstly, our heartfelt condolences go out to the Floyd family and community. Secondly, I can tell you that the actions taken during the arrest in Minneapolis are not consistent with the University Police Department’s training, policy, expectations and culture. The University Police Department does not and will not accept this type of behavior by members of our department. In every interaction, our officers will treat all individuals with respect and dignity. It is every police department’s responsibility to protect the lives of everyone in the community we are sworn to serve. These officers failed to do that.  Please don’t let the horrid actions of these officers destroy your faith in the men and women who take an oath and serve this community.

When the video of George Floyd became public, I instructed all of my supervisors to look at it, review it, and discuss it with their officers. It is important to bring the events of George Floyd’s death to the attention of the department because it is an opportunity to understand and learn. Reviewing the policy on the Use of Force is important to that learning as it reminds officers to lean on their training to de-escalate and to employ strategies that prevent the need for use of force, especially in the campus environment. UPD remains dedicated to serving this community, even during the pandemic when most of the SUNY New Paltz community are no longer physically present here on campus. Last month, our members participated in additional training on Implicit Bias related to COVID-19.

Seeing this unfold made me reflect upon what our department does, will continue to do, and will do in the future to understand, train, and openly communicate with all members of our campus community. We value the partnerships we have built in our community and we ask you to continue to partner with us as our community works through these challenging times. In the past year, UPD has met with members of the campus community including students of color to discuss how they feel in their interactions with law enforcement as a whole. I praise those students who are willing to come to the table to have this conversation and I fully support future collaborations in the semesters to come.

Respectfully yours,

Mary Ritayik
Chief of Police