Prior to entering the room of three undergraduates suspected of
committing drug violations last Friday, Harvard University Police
Department (HUPD) officers first searched the dorm room next door on a
noise complaint, two DeWolfe residents said yesterday.
According to Kristi L. Jobson ’06 and Cat P. Walleck ’06, a
man identifying himself as an HUPD officer and dressed in plain clothes
knocked on their DeWolfe suite last Friday at about 8 p.m.
“He said, ‘I’m with HUPD, there was a complaint of loud
music,’ but he didn’t show us a badge,” Walleck said yesterday. “And I
said, ‘Well, okay. There is obviously no loud music playing because my
door is open.’ And when I sounded hesitant, he said, ‘My supervisor is
in the hallway,’ but she didn’t come to the door or introduce herself.”
Walleck said she ultimately allowed the officer to enter the room, adding that he did not confiscate anything.
“He said he was looking for a radio but there was zero music,”
said Jobson, who is also a Crimson editor. “Our reaction was that he
had to have been looking for something else.”
Jobson said she told Aaron D. Chadbourne ’06, who serves on
the Campus Safety Committee, about the search. Chadbourne said he
contacted HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano about the incident
Catalano wrote in an e-mail last night that police were just made aware of this allegation yesterday.
“It was assigned to Captain Linda McCaul to investigate,” he
wrote in an e-mail. “Beyond that, we can’t comment because we haven’t
Catalano said earlier this week that an officer entered a room
in 10 DeWolfe last Friday night and charged four undergraduates with
marijuana possession. He said the officer, who had been patrolling the
parking lot adjacent to the building, investigated after detecting what
he suspected was the scent of marijuana coming from a window on the
Catalano declined to comment further on HUPD’s search policy
or whether the department received any noise complaints the night of
the incident. Online public police logs do not mention any noise
complaints at 10 DeWolfe that night.
“The reason he gave was ludicrous,” Walleck said. “He asked to
be let in the room because of loud music. He probably would’ve come to
the door and asked us to turn the music down instead of asking to come
and see the loud music.”
After being let in, the officer cursorily searched Jobson’s bedroom, she added.
“He looked around [Jobson’s] room a little bit,” Walleck said.
“He looked on her bed and looked on her desk. He mostly was looking out
the window to, I guess, locate himself inside the building.”
Jobson and Walleck’s room and the suspects’ room have the only second-floor windows in 10 DeWolfe visible from the parking lot.
SCOPE OF CONSENT
Civil rights experts said yesterday that the search raised privacy questions.
“That’s pretty darn dubious if they weren’t playing music,”
said Simon Stern, a Harvard Law School lecturer who has published work
about the Fourth Amendment. “Still, if you have reason to think that a
crime has been committed and you’ve narrowed it down to two places, a
court would agree there was probable cause to search the rooms.”
But Harvard Law School Lecturer Wesley Oliver said the reason given for a search may affect the scope of the consent.
“The scope of the consent is governed by what the officer said
he’s looking for,” he said. “So, if an officer asked, ‘you wouldn’t
mind us looking for elephants in your shed?’ ‘Well, officer, go ahead’
but that’s not consent to search his tool box. Here, the cop says, ‘I’m
looking for a stereo’ and he doesn’t look like he’s searching for a
But he added it was clear to the residents from the officer’s
request—to search for an item commonly found in college dorm rooms—that
he was looking for something else, so they likely consented.
“I think it was creative,” he said. “If he said, ‘do you mind
if I look around for drugs,’ everyone is going to say no.... What’s
interesting here is he has in some ways exceeded the scope of consent.
He went to places that clearly had no stereo.”
John Rinstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Massachusetts, said that while Harvard administrators reserve
the right to enter students’ rooms through the housing agreement, this
waiver would not permit a fully deputized police force like HUPD to
enter rooms without residents’ consent or a warrant.
“I don’t think that students even under that agreement have
waived all privacy rights,” he said. “What Harvard has retained under
the room agreement is to search in specific instances, such as for
appliances. But the administrators’ entry can’t be used as a pretext
for conducting what is otherwise a law enforcement search that would
require a warrant.”
Walleck said she gave the officer consent to enter. But Jobson said the experience “continues to make me feel weird.”
“It’s made me feel a little unsafe and it made me feel uncomfortable,” she said.
The four undergraduates charged with drug violations have not
yet been arraigned, and HUPD declined to provide details or confirm the
suspects’ names until arraignment.
According to the original police log entry, the three DeWolfe
roommates were charged with possession of marijuana near a school or
park with intent to distribute. The University-affiliated Radcliffe Day
Care Center is located one floor below the suspects’ suite in DeWolfe.
Possession of a Class D substance, which includes marijuana,
with intent to distribute carries a sentence of no more than two years,
or a fine between $500 and $5,000, or both, according to Massachusetts
General Law. But a drug violation within a school zone carries a
minimum sentence of two years in prison and a maximum of 15 years.
Walleck said that she has detected the scent of marijuana in her second-floor hallway.
“It’s pretty blatant,” she said. “I’ve definitely smelled it
walking down the hallways. One time, there was a glade plug-in in the
One of the undergraduates being charged, Jason R. Gardner ’07,
told The Crimson earlier this week that he and his roommates allowed
the officer to enter the room. Gardner added that the officer had told
them that he did not need a warrant to enter the room.
Middlesex District Attorney Spokeswoman Emily LaGrassa said
yesterday that the office had not yet received word of the charges.
Catalano confirmed yesterday that there have been no arraignments in
this investigation yet.
—Staff writer Robin M. Peguero can be reached at email@example.com.