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Amazingly, these protesters kind of have a point about their campus police

A bungled handling of a tense situation doesn’t look good

Students are protesting the campus police department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in part for its recent handling of an altercation between police officers and armed protesters there. An independent review determined that the officers had engendered a “breakdown in procedure and practice” by not arresting some gun-carrying members of a neo-Confederate protest group that had stepped onto campus (though it concluded that the officers did not display “favoritism” toward the Confederate group).

Given that police officers in the last year have arrested numerous students for unlawful behavior during campus protests, student-activists were somewhat miffed at the conclusions of the report, claiming it reflects a racist double standard in favor of whites.

It’s not that bad—there’s no evidence at all that any of the police officers are racially bigoted. A clumsy, ignorant handling of a tense situation does not indicate sympathy with racists. But it still doesn’t look good, particularly when the report also concluded that the police officers had “failed to conduct [a] basic investigation” in order to support their arrest of several protesters elsewhere. If you’re not arresting the person plainly breaking a serious campus rule, while botching the process for arresting other, arguably lesser lawbreakers, you’re understandably going to make some people angry.

Campus activists, of course, will often protest campus police just for the heck of it; they’re an easy target, they’re a useful stand-in for higher authority, and they provide a bold sort of rush for wannabe revolutionaries who think they’re doing something edgy by waving a sign on the quad. But sometimes the protesters are right. Campus police work a particularly sensitive and fragile beat; college campuses are often volatile and incendiary environments. University cops need to work well to ensure they’re treating everyone fairly and not bungling the most basic of police procedures. Sometimes—not often—the screeching, wailing student mob gets things right.

MORE: Student of color risks wrath of campus mob by defending armed campus police

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