Olympia, WA – Evergreen State College’s police chief resigned her position this summer after the school’s president repeatedly restricted her ability to perform her duties in order to appease the demands of student protesters and activist groups.
The division between former Chief Stacy Brown and Evergreen State College president George Bridges illustrates the risk law enforcement officers face when they are not supported by administrative personnel.
“The baiting and stigmatizing of Brown began at her swearing in, and continued throughout her tenure as chief,” former Evergreen professor Bret Weinstein told The Olympian.
“The fact that the college administration encouraged the frequently illegal actions of the protestors, and tied the hands of the police, made Brown’s job all but impossible.”
Campus protests erupted this past spring amid allegations of institutional racism.
On May 23, student protesters confronted Weinstein, and blocked Chief Brown and Officer Timothy O’Dell from being able to reach him, the Chronicle of Higher Education said.
After the incident was resolved, “students called the Police Emergency phone line and the campus switch board line relentlessly,” Officer O’Dell said in a report.
“Students even resorted to calling in obvious false reports to both Evergreen Dispatch and T-Comm 911 dispatch.”
“Approximately 100 students went to the third floor of the Library building to force Evergreen State College officials...into conversation,” Officer O’Dell said.
President Bridges then “ordered” Chief Brown to “go against common Police practice and meet with the student body both out of uniform and unarmed while on duty,” the report said.
Chief Brown complied with the president’s directive, but was repeatedly interrupted and heckled by students as she attempted to respond to their questions and concerns.
The following day, protesters entered the president’s office, partially covered some windows, and used furniture to block some of the building entrances, the Chronicle of Higher Education said.
President Bridges told the police to stand down.
“If law enforcement were to come in,” Bridges later told the Chronicle of Higher Education, “there would be perhaps violence, perhaps damage to property, damage to the students.”
As videos of the protests circulated cross the nation, Chief Brown was heavily criticized for “allowing” the Evergreen campus to spiral out of control.
“Heartbroken and frustrated that my integrity has never been questioned once in 26 years and now my leadership and integrity is being questioned nationwide,” Chief Brown said in a June email to president Bridges.
“I would appreciate some public support for me and police services,” she said in the email.
Just three days later, amid chaos and violence at the school, Chief Brown notified president Bridges that she was unable to ensure campus safety.
She recommended that he close campus for the remainder of the term.
During a late June Senate Law and Justice Committee work session, Bridges identified a need for more funding towards campus security, the Olympian said.
“We cannot rely solely on the lean public safety presence that has been the tradition,” Bridges told the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
“Our hard-working law enforcement officers need the training, equipment, and staffing levels necessary to ensure their continued ability to protect all on our 1,000-acre campus. I will be seeking help from the Legislature to meet the challenges of campus safety.”
A group of Evergreen students later expressed frustration that student voices weren’t included in the work session.
Former Chief Brown is now an officer at the Tumwater Police Department.