Rowan U. to hold town hall after viral video shows police drawing guns at students

Rowan University students will be able to air their feelings Friday at a town hall meeting on policing, four days after local cops drew their guns on two students in a videotaped incident that went viral. (Joe Hernandez/WHYY)

Rowan University students will be able to air their feelings Friday at a town hall meeting on policing, four days after local cops drew their guns on two students in a videotaped incident that went viral. (Joe Hernandez/WHYY)

Rowan University students will be able to air their feelings Friday morning at a town hall meeting on policing, four days after local cops drew their guns on two students in a videotaped incident that went viral.

The encounter raised questions about police use of force and racial bias in law enforcement, because the driver of the car was black.

“I’ve been pulled over countless times by Glassboro police,” Altaif Hassan, the biology major who was stopped and detained Monday told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but this was the worst.”

Franklin S. Brown, Jr., the chief of the Glassboro Police Department, said in a Facebook post that the officers “utilized their training and followed established protocol” during the stop.

No gun was found in the car and Hassan and his passenger, Giavanna Roberson, were later released.

Although the situation ended peacefully, some students found the outsize police presence excessive for a simple stop.

“There should have been like one or two [police officers]. Just pull ‘em over, just knock on the window to check and see what’s up,” said Rowan University freshman Jonathan Mitchell. “Not pulled guns on ‘em.”

The ordeal started around 4:30 p.m. Monday when two Glassboro police officers were conducting an unrelated shoplifting investigation.

A man approached the officers and told them he had just seen a black man with “puffy hair” point a gun at a car then get into a Dodge Charger and drive away.

Officers pursued the Charger, maintaining “direct visual contact” until they pulled it over in a Rowan University parking lot.

Crowds gathered as at least three officers drew their guns and shouted commands to the driver and passenger. At least one officer brandished what appeared to be a rifle.

After watching a video of the incident, senior JaShanti Pittman suggested the police blew the situation out of proportion.

“The protocol could have been handled better, because at the end of the day there were students walking around the building and you have cops with all these guns out,” Pittman said. “I don’t think that’s, honestly, safe.”

Still, other students said the police acted appropriately, given that the tipster had warned them the driver was armed.

“I don’t think they acted in a bad way,” said junior Daniel Ryan. “If anybody was in that situation, and they got the tip that they did, I think that gives them a reason to be on high alert.”

The university is hosting a town hall at 11 a.m. Friday in the student center ballroom.

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