Black Students Criticize Harvard Police

Harassment by University Cops Is Fact of Campus Life, Black Undergrads Say

Shakti Floyd '94 says that during his first night at Harvard three years ago, University police stopped him as he left a Yard dorm.

Since then, Floyd has been stopped by police on two other occasions: once as he rapped in the Yard and another time as he waited for the Harvard shuttle bus.

In all three cases, Floyd says he wasn't doing anything wrong. The only thing that drew the police to him, he charges, is the fact that he is Black.

Black students, in fact, say it is commonplace for officers of the Harvard Police Department to detain them as they make their way around campus.

"There is a serious problem with regards to how some members of the police department treat black students on this campus," says Zaheer R. Ali '94, former president of the Black Students Association (BSA).

The worst part about the alleged police mistreatment, Ali and other students say, is that many Black undergraduates have come to accept such treatment as a fact of life on campus.

"What is sad about it is that at this point, after seeing repeated incidents, it is almost as if you [are] becoming cold to it," says Luis R. Rodriquez '94, adding that he, too, has been stopped by Harvard police.

Allegations of police harassment have been a regular feature of campus life throughout Police Chief Paul E. Johnson's ten-year tenure (please see graphic, above).

Whenever he has been faced with allegations of racially-motivated harassment, like the charges leveled last week by Inati Ntshanga '95, Johnson has responded in basically the same way. The chief recognizes the need for sensitivity in the police force, but without exception he defends his officers.

In the case of Ntshanga, Johnson and other University officials say police were following proper procedure in December 1992 when they arrested the student in the Matthews Hall linen office while he worked for Harvard Students Agencies.

University Attorney Allan A. Ryan Jr., who investigated the case for Harvard, says officers were right to arrest Ntshanga because he could

not, and would not, identify himself.

Ntshanga disputes this, saying he told policehe was a student and suggested that they call hisHSA managers. Nevertheless, he was charged withbreaking and entering, trespassing and use of aburglary tool-his keys to the linen room, Ntshangawas later acquitted of all charges.

Specifics aside, Ntshanga's allegations haverenewed concerns about how the Harvard police areBlack students.

"That is nothing new by Harvard. They alwaysdetain Harvard students and people in thecommunity," says former State Representative andCambridge City Councilor Saundra Graham. "Theyknow what they do and they continue to it."