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University Police Need Monitoring


By Charles C. Matthew

HARVARD STUDENTS and other Cantabrigians have made numerous complaints about the Harvard University Police Department during the past year. However, their voices are often muddled because they have no adequate way of being heard. What they need is a civilian review board, similar to the one that will soon oversee the Cambridge police, to insure that Cambridge residents can make recommendations on departmental policy independent of those made by police personnel.

Last year Cambridge parents complained that their children had been held at the police department without being allowed to call home. Complaints arose again when parents charged that eight Black Cambridge youths were arrested on unreasonable grounds and subjected to harassment during booking procedures. Harvard Police Chief Paul E. Johnson was called before the Cambridge City Council to hear the complaints and denied that the Cantabrigians had been victims of discriminatory police practices.

Harvard students have also expressed dissatisfaction with the campus police. During the last year several Black students have claimed Harvard officers had either harassed or stopped them based on identifications referring only to their color in incidents at Mass. Ave., the Law School, and the Indoor Athletic Building.

Harassment claims have resurfaced this semester. In February Currier House Junior Remigie Cruz '86 filed his second formal harassment complaint against the department. He argued that two officers, who said they stopped Cruz on suspicion of wearing illegal sand-filled gloves, had halted him because he was Puerto Rican. Cruz said this was the sixth time Harvard police had stopped him without adequate reason. A week later minority student Juan Gutierrez filed a harassment complaint claiming he had been subjected to unnecessary harassment by a Harvard guard while night-guarding at Currier House during the fall semester.

Responding to student complaints against the department, General Counsel for the University Daniel Steiner '54 agreed to create a joint committee of administrators, faculty, students and police officers is: month The committee held its first meeting Tuesday. Although its agenda is still in the embryonic stage, members say they will focus on three major areas. First, the committee will examine past complaints from minority students to discern whether officers exhibited racism during their dealings with students. Second, students on the committee will call for a separate party, which does not exist at this time, to handle claims against the department. Currently, any complaint against the department must be filed at the headquarters. And third, the twelve members will look at the possibility of establishing a training program to increase police officers' awareness of minority concerns. Such "sensitivity training" is already in place at the City of Quincy Police Department.

HARVARD BLACK student leaders have said that many Black students have experienced unnecessary police stops and have been followed to their dorm rooms by patrol cars because their color makes them seem suspect to some Harvard police. But in most cases the students do not complain because they think nothing will be accomplished. A questionnaire devised to assess minority relations with University police will soon be handed out to Currier House students. But poor to this the only evidence of minority problems with the police has been formal complaints by a few isolated individuals.

Harvard administrators and police on the committee have a long way to go before proving that the committee is not just the result of lip service to a few disgruntled minority students. The new committee may provide a channel for student complaints but does nothing to address the concerns of Cambridge residents outside the University. A permanent, independent police review board including local residents as well as Harvard students is the best way to insure that all citizens affected by the HUPD have a voice in the department.

The Harvard police force was revamped a little over a decade ago the improve its ability to protect Harvardians. One feature of this change was giving Harvard officers deputy status in Middlesex and Suffolk counties. The means that HUPD officers have greate powers of arrest than the Cambridge police force, which only has jurisdiction in Middlesex county. But while the Cambridge police are monitored by a independent review board. Harvard officers are subject only to internal oversight.

How can Cambridge residents void complaints against the Harvard force Police Chief Johnson told the Cambridge City Council last year and had reiterated this year that if anyone has bone to pick, his "door is always open. But Johnson may have to install swinging doors and borrow extra time to field the complaints in addition to his normal duties. An established review board would be much more practice than informal meetings with the Police Chief for addressing citizen concerns Powerful public agencies like the police need surefire checks and balances, now isolated protestations of concern.

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