Student Government candidates hold forum with Mason Police, University Life

A George Mason University Police Department and University Life forum was held on Tuesday and invited students to ask representatives whatever questions they wished. The forum, which was hosted by  Student Body Presidential candidate Ally Bowers and Vice Presidential candidate Jacky Yoo, included speakers such as Sgt. Calvin Chandler, officer Michael Guston and Associate Dean of University Life Todd Rose.

The intent of the event, according to Bowers, was to "reveal the secrets of Mason to students and show that there really aren't secrets. It's to show how easily we could talk to you."

When asked about the Abdirashid Dahir case and the Mason Police’s perspective, Rose said that the case is under investigation and that they were getting external sources for an objective report on the case. Rose said that "we're not trying to lead you to any particular outcome," but as Chandler urged, people should look at the "big picture" and not just a biased account. Chandler also added that although he wasn't a part of the case, he knows the two officers and one of them, who is white, has five bi-racial children. "Do you think that guy's a racist?"

One audience member was concerned that the law gives leeway for officers to do what they want, and Chandler replied by saying "I would never, ever disrespect anybody by race, gender, or anything like that just because I'm wearing this badge." Both Chandler and Guston mentioned how they have too much to lose to cause non-existent issues.

Chandler also wanted to make it clear to students that the police are not there to decide who is or isn't guilty, but to assess a situation and make the best judgment they can. 

"Once we do our thing, it's up to the judge and the jury, not the police" to decide whether or not someone is guilty. "We have to act on that and then have the judge say 'man, that guy didn't try to do that,' or 'hey, he probably did try to do that.' That's not for the police to say. We enforce the law."

He added that he does not think to himself "lets arrest everybody on campus for underage drinking. Do you think that we have time enough to do that in our lives?"

He does, however, feel that if someone is in a position to be victimized that he has to act.

"I do what the law tells me to do. I can't let people be victimized." He says that he might find that the same person who he let go earlier for something like underage drinking was victimized later, so he can't let these things go. When referring to how he makes his decisions Chandler said that "Safety is number one."

Another audience member asked whether the officers followed the idea that people are "innocent until proven guilty" or "guilty until proven innocent."

Officer Guston replied that "If a police officer were to think ['guilty until proven innocent'], they wouldn't last long. The way they operate, the way they conduct themselves, the way they work would be noticed by others and they would be picked out. That's why we're all here, we're still police officers."

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