The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
It’s easy to see the many ways in which Oxford has changed since the pandemic began in March. What’s also easy to see is how much it hasn't.
Numerous photos of people spilling out of Fiesta Charra, Skipper’s and Bagel & Deli have spread around town. Videos of students throwing parties with no masks have ended up on phones across campus and the entire country thanks to TMZ and other national news outlets.
We can see why you’d immediately look toward the students when determining who to blame. But Oxford’s mishandling of safety measure enforcement during this pandemic is raising a red flag. There hasn’t been clear enough communication between City Council and other administrators and the Oxford Police Department (OPD).
Despite Miami University’s efforts to get students on board with their guidelines for public safety and getting them to care for the community in general, OPD continues to put the very community it’s meant to serve at risk.
We know they don’t investigate most of the COVID violations that students and community members report, we know they are lenient with mass gatherings in part because, as Chief John Jones said back in August, they believe it impedes on our First Amendment rights and we know they don’t even wear masks every time they come in contact with people.
None of this makes any sense.
It’s not police officers’ job to interpret the law and decide whether it impedes on our rights — it’s their job to enforce it. There is distinct irony in the fact that they don’t need to wear masks when responding to “public safety threats.”
You would think that the city would be holding this department accountable for their complete lack of enforcement of the law, but communication is lacking between the two. And that begs another question — why?
Our thought is that if the city really wanted to do something about it, it would. Instead, confusion persists, with OPD and the city believing it’s up to the other to enforce the mask mandate.
The bottom line is this — OPD needs to step up, do its job and start punishing people for stepping out of line.
So much of the reason these parties continue to go on and the mask-less crowds on High Street continue to gather is because everyone knows they won’t face any consequences for their actions. The police have allowed students to carry on like normal and not much has been done to stop them.
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Yes, students can still face major repercussions from the university, but once they’re off campus and on their own, there’s not much Miami can do to help as far as masks and social distancing goes.
Unlike the literal school itself, the city seems to think education is the best form of enforcement. But here’s the thing — we’re nearly a year into this pandemic, we’re all young adults who are fully aware of what’s going on, and if you’re not educated at this point, then you’re living under a rock.
We don’t just want accountability for students breaking the rules. We want it for OPD, too.
It’s called law enforcement, not law education. It’s not the police’s job to decide what is and isn’t constitutional. Cops are neither judge nor jury; they are officers of the law. It’s not their job to educate the people of Oxford, especially when those people are more than well-educated on the subject they’re trying to teach. It is their job, however, to enforce the law put in place by those above them and the people in their own community.
They’re meant to be keeping us safe. We don’t think that’s asking too much.