Harvard Police Announce Plans for House, Yard `Liaisons'

In effort to buff up its tarnished campus image, the University police department will appoint several staff liaisons to discuss campus security with students this semester.

While short on the specifics of the plan Harvard police Lt. Lawrence J. Murphy says officers will periodically visit students in the Houses and the Yard beginning early this month. Liaisons will educate students about security measures, inform them about happenings on campus and provide a familiar link to the campus police force, according to Murphy.

"The police department will interface with students through the proctors in the Yard and tutors in the Houses," Murphy said.

For years Harvard students and faculty have called on the department to establish a community policing program like the proposed police liaisons. Such a program would help address students' concerns about police sensitivity and allow students to establish a more personal relationship with officers.

The idea of having police liaisons drew strong support several years back, when charges of racial discrimination leveled against HUPD led to widespread clamoring for police reforms.

Having police liaisons was one of the measures proposed as a way to alleviate tensions between the police department and the student community.

One student, Inati Ntshanga '95, charged police last spring with racial harassment in a December, 1992 arrest. Ntshanga, who is Black, was arrested for trespassing in the basement of Matthews Hall when he was working for Harvard Student Agencies--his key was named the burglary tool.

Charges against Ntshanga were later dropped, but under state law, the arrest will remain on his permanent record.

Murphy said the meetings between students, liaisons, tutors and proctors will occur at times "compatible with everybody."

While Harvard's police department has in the past promised the advent of similar programs, it appears that Harvard's chief of police is now taking action.

Early last month, Chief Paul E. Johnson put forth six initiatives to improve policing before the Committee for College Life. The proposals include extending guard hours, providing police blotter information for house newsletters and stepping up foot-patrols around campus. Committee members said his overtures were warmly received.

Even so, many of the initiatives are not expected to be implemented--if they are implemented at all--until mid-1996, Johnson said last month. And the likelihood of success of the initiatives is further clouded by the fact that it has been widely rumored that Johnson will retire before 1996.

But the liaisons should begin their duties early this semester, Murphy said, as soon as HUPD hammers out details with Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III and the Committee on College Life. The administration and the police department have yet to determine the number of liaisons employed in the program.

Liaisons will be chosen out of volunteers from the HUPD's lieutenants and sergeants, though patrol officers may participate as well, Murphy said. He added that the liaisons' duties will be "added into their regular daily activity," and thus may reduce their time patrolling campus.

Some members of the staff have already volunteered. "There have been people that have shown an interest," Murphy said, declining to provide names or elaborate on the exact number.