After a TikTok video featuring a South Park “scanning for Mexicans” voiceover circulated on social media last month and caused an upset among the student body, University of New Mexico police officer Eric Peer was placed on paid administrative leave for two weeks while an internal investigation was conducted, as previously reported in the Daily Lobo.
At the time Peer was allowed to return to work, UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair said “appropriate disciplinary action” had been taken but declined to disclose any details. Through a records request, the Daily Lobo has learned that the disciplinary action levied against Peer was a written warning.
The warning — which was signed by UNMPD commander James Madrid on Sept. 22 — was not issued for the content of the controversial video. Instead, Peer was found to have violated UNMPD’s standard operating procedure “by publicly identifying (himself) as a UNMPD police officer and identifying UNMPD property on a social application network without permission.”
Peer had posted several other videos on his now-deleted TikTok account, 505collegecop, including short clips showing him riding a scooter and a bicycle in uniform.
UNMPD’s standard operating procedure states that employees who have personal social media accounts that are publicly accessible “shall not identify themselves directly or indirectly as an employee of UNMPD” and that employees aren’t allowed to post photographs or videos of UNMPD uniforms, badges, marked patrol cars or other police items without written permission from the chief of police or his designee.
Associated Students of the University of New Mexico President Pro Tempore Suha Musa — who, when the video first circulated, called for Peer to be fired — expressed her frustration with the outcome of the investigation.
“It’s super disappointing for sure, but it also feels like the administration thinks we as students are stupid or unwilling to keep pressure on them and on this issue,” Musa said. “The two weeks of paid leave indicates they thought it was something that would blow over before he could come back, and I’m sure they didn’t think there would be much backlash once he was back because they’re keeping it on the down low.”
Musa — a Black student who grew up near Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered by the police — has been an outspoken critic of UNMPD and UNM President Garnett Stokes’ handling of the issue of policing.
“I just feel so ignored and tokenized by UNM, where apparently valuing diversity and condemning racism includes bringing back a racist officer,” Musa said.
Musa was referencing the statement Stokes released on Sept. 4 about Peer’s video, which is as follows.
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“We are aware of the social media incident related to one of our UNMPD officers, and are investigating immediately and appropriately,” Stokes wrote on Twitter. “@UNM and @unmpd stand against racism and social injustice. Respect and diversity are part of our culture, values and who we are as Lobos.”
The ASUNM senate passed a resolution in June that announced the undergraduate student government’s support for defunding the police and included a demand for the UNM administration to substantially address police brutality and other issues affecting the Black community on campus. The resolution was written by Musa, along with Senators Emma Hotz, Raina Harper, Ryan Regalado and Jacob Silva.
American Studies department chair David Correia has called for a community-led investigation into UNMPD “with a focus on finding alternatives to armed police on UNM’s campus,” per a Sept. 25 letter he emailed Stokes, CCing Provost James Holloway and Board of Regents.
The letter was prompted partly by the incident involving Peer, as well as Stokes defending the presence of state police snipers on campus during a protest against police violence over the summer, as reported in the Daily Lobo. In the two weeks since Correia sent the letter, he has not received a response from the administration.
Bella Davis is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bladvs