Police union releases video in effort to refute CSULB professor’s racial discrimination complaint

The union that represents Cal State Long Beach police is pushing back against a professor’s accusations that he was racially profiled when an officer refused to unlock a door for him.

In an effort to bolster their case, the union released body camera footage of the May 25 encounter and argued it shows professor Steven Osuna was being dishonest when he accused a campus police officer of discriminating against him. Osuna, however, has stood by his accusation, saying the police union is trying to silence him for speaking out against racial profiling.

Osuna says he had accidentally locked himself out of the university’s sociology department when he walked out to use the restroom and, upon his return, realized the hallway door leading to his office was locked. Hoping to get back inside so he could be on time for an online advising workshop for transfer students, Osuna requested help from campus police.

The responding officer’s body camera footage, which the union says it obtained through a public records request, shows the six-minute interaction between Osuna and the officer. In the video, the officer asks Osuna if he has any photo identification, which is the department’s current policy for unlocking campus doors. Osuna did not, he told the officer he had lost his wallet that contained his ID and had left his keys and cellphone in his office. Instead, Osuna offered to show the officer his credit cards that had his name on them or provide his faculty ID number to confirm his identity.

“In there I have pictures of myself and my family. You’ll see that, I promise you’ll see that,” Osuna says to the officer.

The officer called his supervisor to explain the circumstances and was ultimately advised to not let Osuna enter the building. “If I was a White professor you’d be fine with this,” Osuna says in response. The officer apologized to Osuna and walked away.

Following the incident, Osuna, along with the Long Beach Chapter of the California Faculty Association, demanded a public apology from the University Police Department on social media on July 8, stating that he was “put into a presumption of guilt, rather than of innocence,” because of his ethnicity.

Osuna told the Post last month that the incident left him distraught. The refusal to help him get back into his office was something White colleagues said they hadn’t experienced from the campus police, the faculty association said in a statement.

The Statewide University Police Association said the video, which it released Monday, shows Osuna’s claims of racial discrimination were “demonstrably false.”

“Allegations of racial bias by Dr. Osuna are beneath his profession and constitute dishonesty and discourteous treatment of other CSU employees,” SUPA President Matt Kroner said in a statement.

Kroner said that there was no way for the supervisor on the other side of the phone call to know Osuna’s race. The union ultimately demanded that a formal investigation from the CSU Chancellor’s Office to investigate misconduct by Osuna.

In a Tweet, Osuna said the demand was “clear intimidation and an attempt to silence my union and I.”

The Long Beach CFA called the demand a “troubling disregard for Dr. Osuna’s basic labor and civil rights.”

In a statement to the Post, the Peace Officers Research Association of California also defended the officer’s actions, emphasizing that he was only following the university’s policies.

Osuna and the CFA said they are seeking to collaborate with CSULB to revise the door unlocking policy and create a Campus Police Accountability Council to “encourage communication, transparency, and accountability between the campus community and the UPD.”

In a statement last month, university spokesperson Gregory Woods said that although they don’t believe the officer acted inappropriately during their encounter with Osuna, the university is examining the incident from Osuna’s perspective.

“Systemic racism and abuse of power by police in this country are real, profound challenges,” Woods said. “As an institution of higher education, we embrace our role as a place for these issues to be explored and debated, with solutions identified.”

Osuna told the Post that no further actions have been taken since the statement from CSULB.

CSULB professor accuses campus police of discrimination, says public apology is needed

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Laura Anaya-Morga is a general assignment reporter for the Long Beach Post.
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