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Temple University Re-engaging With Philly Police After Student Murder, Despite Embrace of ‘Defund’ Movement

In response to the murder of one of its students, Temple University President Dr. Jason Wingard said in a campus-wide email it will “work with the Philadelphia Police Department to increase their presence off campus,” to boost student security.

The move comes after a year in which Temple administrators and students have debated and occasionally embraced facets of the “Defund the Police” movement, which sprang up in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, an event so shocking it ignited a new, national reckoning on race.

The university is currently working to quell fears after Samuel Collington, a 21-year-old senior at the university, was shot and killed in the middle of the day within blocks of the campus.

“Students are afraid. Parents are afraid. Parents are afraid for students’ safety,” student government president Bradley Smutek told the Inquirer.

Besides increasing patrols in cooperation with Philadelphia Police, Wingard also promised to “increase our Campus Safety force by 50%” and to “collaborate with city leaders to expand anti-violence initiatives to reduce shootings and homicides in North Philadelphia and across the city.”

Last June, however, the mood at Temple was more about distancing itself from Philadelphia Police.

“In the past, Temple has provided a small amount of support to the Philadelphia Police Foundation through charitable donations,” university president Richard M. Englert said in a brief statement. “Upon review and community input, we have decided that the university will no longer provide this support,” and that the funds would be reallocated “to support social justice programs at the university.”

The Philadelphia Police Foundation is an IRS-recognized nonprofit where funds “go directly toward providing critical equipment, technology, training and innovative programs to help the Philadelphia Police Department improve public safety and enhance service to the city,” according to the foundation’s website.

“Over the past three years, Philadelphia area individuals, businesses and foundations have generously contributed over $2.0 million to underwrite over a dozen of the Department’s most critical, but unbudgeted priorities,” the website adds.

A request for comment to the university on the shift in attitudes toward police was not returned.

Despite the political pressures that emerged from the Floyd killing, the university rebuffed a petition on from earlier in June 2020, that called for a total severing of all ties between the university and Philly police.

“Temple University claims that ‘racism within our community is not tolerated,’ but they are willing to fund the very institution that suppresses the message of #BlackLivesMatter in our city,” the petition read. “It is well known that Temple has been actively gentrifying North Philadelphia for decades, and has expanded its police surveillance beyond campus through its ties with Philadelphia Police.”

Wingard was joined by Provost JoAnne A. Epps and Chief Operating Officer Kevin G. Clark in a lengthy statement pushing back on the idea.

“We do not believe that [severing all ties with Philadelphia police] would be in the best interest of Temple students, faculty and staff, and our neighbors in the surrounding community,” they said.

“Shared responsibilities and patrols among the Temple Police Department, our Allied Universal security partners and the Philadelphia Police Department help keep us safe by providing effective layers of service and protection for the Temple community and residents in nearby neighborhoods.”

The petition and subsequent rebuff from the University came before the decision to stop making donations to the Philadelphia Police Foundation, but the original petition also highlighted that link.

“It is time to say it loud and clear that we as students, alumni and residents of Philadelphia firmly oppose Temple’s active participation in militarizing our police force. #DefundthePolice”, the petition said.

Meanwhile, police identified 17-year-old Latif Williams as a suspect in Collington’s murder. Williams turned himself in to police.

Court records show that he was charged with five felony counts related to an alleged carjacking in July.

Those charges were later withdrawn.

“[A] key witness for the Commonwealth did not appear in court, forcing our office to withdraw the case at that time. That incident, which took place in August, remains under active investigation, and our office continues to pursue accountability for that crime,” a spokesperson for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office said, according to ABC6.

The university is holding a community hearing at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss safety issues.

The debate over how to provide the necessary security to the campus comes as Philadelphia crossed the mark of 500 homicides in a year on Thanksgiving. The city had only previously reached that mark one other time since the statistic has been kept since 1960.

As of Dec, 7, the Philadelphia Police crime statistics page showed that the city now counts 523 homicides this year.

This article first appeared in Broad and Liberty.

Death of Temple Student from Delco Shines Light on Philly’s Record Homicide Rate

By all accounts, Samuel Collington did everything right. A brilliant student, Eagle Scout, and an aspiring lawyer. But he was gunned down near the Temple University campus as he came back from his Delaware County home the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

About 500 people attended a memorial for Collington Thursday at Interboro High School in Prospect Park, where one teacher after another spoke about how much Collington meant to them, what a joy it was to have him in their classrooms, his academic prowess, and his sense of humor.

Samuel Collington

Molly Collington, his mother, thanked those who came to the memorial to “honor our golden boy.”

“Please, just do a good deed in Sam’s name. He would really, really, really, really be honored,” she said. “And to know that all of you are here tonight to honor him. Sam was truly one of a kind.”

“This isn’t just a loss for the Collingtons. This is a loss for the world because Sam promised me he would make the world a better place,” she said. “He did when he was a baby. He said, ‘I’ll do everything I can to make this world better for you, Mom.’ And he meant it and he tried. He lived more in his 21 years and did more than some people ever do in their whole lives. And his obituary just wasn’t even long enough for all of his accomplishments.”

“I’m Bailey and I’m Sam’s sister, and for a while, for the majority of my life, that’s what I was for a lot of people, to teachers who were enthralled with his excellent work ethic and quick wit,” said Bailey Collington.

“I remember on the first days in my junior and senior year and (my Mom asked if) my teachers asked me about Sam and I said, ‘Yes, obviously.’ We both know they did. Maybe there was a period of my life when I resented it. But everyone who knew him knew he had a magnetic personality. The shadow he cast was big,” Bailey added.

After the speeches, hugs, and tears, participants carrying lighted candles began a procession walking a few blocks to the Norward Library where Samuel Collington had installed a flagpole for his Eagle Scout project.

The group of some 500 mourners mirrored the 513 people killed in Philadelphia as of December 3–a number not seen since 1990.

A 17-year-old suspect turned himself in to face murder charges in Collington’s death, which police said happened during a robbery. The suspect, Latif Williams, had a prior record and had been freed after the district attorney’s office dismissed previous charges against him before a preliminary hearing when a witness did not come to court, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Retired Upper Darby police chief and former Philadelphia police officer Michael Chitwood laid the blame squarely on the current District Attorney Larry Krasner, whose progressive policies have resulted in the release of criminals who would have been locked up under previous, tough-on-crime, DAs.

Chitwood said crime in Philadelphia “is totally out of control.” He called Collington’s death “a tragic event.”

“The doer should have been held in jail,” said Chitwood. “He should never have been on the street.”

While Chitwood does not oppose release for those who have committed minor crimes and believes in rehabilitation, people who are a danger to others should not be “walking among us,” he said.

“He had a lengthy criminal record and should be on the street,” he emphasized. The wave of shootings sweeping the country could hit any place, including the suburbs where people think they’re safe. “It could happen to any community, any place.”

While some say too many Pennsylvanians are incarcerated — the incarceration rate is 659 per 100,000 —  Chitwood says he believes the opposite is true and more jails are needed.

“If you need to build more jails for bad, heinous felons, build more jails,” he said. “These people who commit serious crimes should not be out on the streets.”

While some officials have cited the pandemic as a cause of the rising crime wave, Chitwood disagreed.

“Unless the DA locks up people who have committed horrible crimes, rapes, robberies, they will continue,” Chitwood said.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

An obituary listed some of Collington’s accomplishments, including being president of his high school class his junior and senior years, performing in the band and theater, being a member of the National Honor Society, and voted most likely to succeed. He also volunteered for various issues and organized a march after the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Temple University officials said in a press release, “We mourn the loss of a bright and thriving political science student, and share in the wrenching grief of his family and friends. Samuel was set to graduate this spring from the College of Liberal Arts, and he already was succeeding in his field, interning as a Democracy Fellow with the city. This is a true tragedy in every sense of the word.”

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