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Police, Black Students Dispute Racial Incidents

Accounts of Confrontations Are Similar, But Officers Emphatically Reject Charges of Harassment

By Joe Mathews, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Police Chief Paul E. Johnson said this week that a flyer charging the department with racial harassment was misleading, and allowed his officers to directly address the charges.

"I felt the need to address the specific charges made by the Black Students association. There are glaring misstatements in the flyer--errors of fact," said Johnson, adding that the department is investigating the incidents internally.

In a flyer distributed to undergraduates last month, the Black Students Association (BSA) cited four cases in which Harvard officers allegedly mistreated students because of their race.

Black students and Harvard Police officers give similar accounts of recent cases of alleged police harassment but they disagree on whether these incidents constitute racial harassment.

BSA president Zaheer R. Ali '94 said his organization stands by the charges in the flyer. He said the flyer was based on signed, written statements from students involved.

The Crimson interviewed the students and officers involved in three of the four incidents described in the flyer. Police had no record of the fourth incident, in which police allegedly frisked a Latino student without cause, and the student involved could not be reached for comment.

Although students and police agree on many of the details of the incidents, the students criticized police conduct as racially motivated. Some called for mandatory sensitivity seminars for officers.

Police officers defended their conduct and said they are simply responding to all complaints, some of which may be prejudiced.

Students Stopped

Clinton E. Dye '93 said he was stopped by two officers while walking his bike form Currier to Leverett House on April 9.

Officer George F. Pierce asked the three students to show identification, and told them that he was not stopping them because they were Black but because he was responding to an earlier call, both Dye and Pierce said.

"He said he had gotten a call saying three suspicious Black men were stealing bicycles from the Quad," said Dye.

But Dye said, "It was obvious that we were only being stopped because we were Black--it was just an unpleasent situation."

Pierce, who is white, said the caller may have been a racist. But Pierce said he was following standard police procedure to respond to all calls when he stopped the students.

Dye acknowledged that the caller and not the officer may be responsible forharassment in this case.

Pierce said he was offended by the BSA flyer,which he interpreted as charging him as beingracist.

"In my opinion I handled them professionallyand with courtesy," he said. "I take personalaffront that I was accused of racial harassment ofanybody."

Pierce, who has been in the department for 22years, said he has never seen his colleagues actin a discriminatory manner.

"I can't say that every Harvard police officeris not prejudiced," Pierce said. "But no officerhas ever treated a minority member unfairly."

Pierce said 70 percent of Black students hestops say "you're constantly picking on us becausewe're Black." He added that even people who areeventually convicted say this.

But Dye said many of his Black friends havebeen stopped for no reason than their skin color."I don't think it's to the point that the studentscan't trust the police but there is insecurity,"Dye said.

Luis R. Rodriguez '94 and Raymond Joseph '94also said they were stopped without cause bypolice, on April 12.

"We were rapping in the Yard, just having fun,"Rodriguez said. "People walked by us and weresmiling."

The students walked past Harvard Hall and werestopped by an officer in an unmarked car drivingbehind them, police and students said. Two otherpolice cars, with lights flashing, arrived at thescene and blocked off Johnston Gate, according toboth police an students.

Sgt. Kathleen M. Stanford said police stoppedthe students and asked to see their IDs becausethey seemed to be yelling loudly at students inHollis Hall.

"It was not the case that they were surroundedbecause they were Black," said Stanford, who wasin one of the patrol cars on the scene. "Westopped them because they were disturbing thepeace."

But Joseph said they were not yelling atstudents in Hollis Hall.

"[Police] said we were threatening people inthe window," Joseph said. "We were not speakingthat loud. The person in Hollis made no reply. Ican't see how they thought we were threateningthem.":

In addition, Joseph said police questioned themin a hostile and offensive manner.

"They cursed at us. Words like 'fuck' werestated, and I don't think that's proper policelanguage," Joseph said.

Stanford said there were no violations ofpolice procedure during the field interview.

Joseph would not generalize about thedepartment, but said he his personal experiencewith the police department was negative.

Ignored Cries

Stacey R. Carter '93 and another students,speaking on the condition of anonymity, describedanother incident, on April 13, in which policeallegedly acted inappropriately

The two Black women said a University securityguard ignored their cries after five half-clothedwhite men made sexually harassing comments andgestures at them outside Claverly Hall.

They both said the guard ignored them becausethey are Black.

"I yelled to the guard who was across thestreet," one of the women said. "He said he couldnot hear me. I don't understand why he did notcross the street to see what I was screamingabout."

"I'm hard pressed to believe that if five Blackmales had flashed two white women the situationwould have turned out the same way," she said.

But Operations Manager Robert J. Dowling, whooversees Harvard security guards, said the guarddid not ignore the women because of their skincolor. He said the guard did not see the incident.

"He didn't think anything happened," Dowlingsaid. "It was not be cause they were Black. If hehad come out five minutes earlier, you can betyour life he would have done something about it."

Dowling could not explain why the guard did notinvestigate the situation. "I thought he shouldhave, but I'm playing Monday morning quarterback,"he said.

Police officers who responded to the call askedeveryone inside the Phoenix Club to step outside,police said. The women then identified one of thefive men, police said.

At that point, a club member accused one of thewomen of theatening him with a knife, police said.

Sgt. Stanford, the supervising officer at thescene, told the man that his charge was "frivolousand vindictive" and continued with interviewingclub members.

After completing the field interviews, the manrepeated the charge and Stanford frisked thewomen. She told the women that she frisked them toindicate on the police record that the charge wasfalse.

The women said they were upset that they werefrisked in front of the men, but said theyunderstood why they were frisked.

"I have no problem with Sgt. Stanford," onewoman said. "I'm very glad that she was the personthat came."

Carter said although Stanford acted properly,the police department as a whole is a racistorganization.

"She is the exception rather than the rule,"said Carter. "It's not that there aren't anyexceptions, but this highlights the pervasivenessof racial insensitivity at the Harvard PoliceDepartment.

Stanford said the description of this incidentin the BSA flyer was misleading.

"One of the frightened victims was then falselyaccused of possessing a knife and, subsequentlyfrisked," the flyer reads.

Stanford said readers might conclude that thepolice accused the women. Both women agreed withthe police account which indicated that the clubmember made the charge.

BSA president Ali said the community should notfocus on the frisking of the students. "Ourproblem is with the security guard," said Ali."Our problem is not with the knife.

Pierce said he was offended by the BSA flyer,which he interpreted as charging him as beingracist.

"In my opinion I handled them professionallyand with courtesy," he said. "I take personalaffront that I was accused of racial harassment ofanybody."

Pierce, who has been in the department for 22years, said he has never seen his colleagues actin a discriminatory manner.

"I can't say that every Harvard police officeris not prejudiced," Pierce said. "But no officerhas ever treated a minority member unfairly."

Pierce said 70 percent of Black students hestops say "you're constantly picking on us becausewe're Black." He added that even people who areeventually convicted say this.

But Dye said many of his Black friends havebeen stopped for no reason than their skin color."I don't think it's to the point that the studentscan't trust the police but there is insecurity,"Dye said.

Luis R. Rodriguez '94 and Raymond Joseph '94also said they were stopped without cause bypolice, on April 12.

"We were rapping in the Yard, just having fun,"Rodriguez said. "People walked by us and weresmiling."

The students walked past Harvard Hall and werestopped by an officer in an unmarked car drivingbehind them, police and students said. Two otherpolice cars, with lights flashing, arrived at thescene and blocked off Johnston Gate, according toboth police an students.

Sgt. Kathleen M. Stanford said police stoppedthe students and asked to see their IDs becausethey seemed to be yelling loudly at students inHollis Hall.

"It was not the case that they were surroundedbecause they were Black," said Stanford, who wasin one of the patrol cars on the scene. "Westopped them because they were disturbing thepeace."

But Joseph said they were not yelling atstudents in Hollis Hall.

"[Police] said we were threatening people inthe window," Joseph said. "We were not speakingthat loud. The person in Hollis made no reply. Ican't see how they thought we were threateningthem.":

In addition, Joseph said police questioned themin a hostile and offensive manner.

"They cursed at us. Words like 'fuck' werestated, and I don't think that's proper policelanguage," Joseph said.

Stanford said there were no violations ofpolice procedure during the field interview.

Joseph would not generalize about thedepartment, but said he his personal experiencewith the police department was negative.

Ignored Cries

Stacey R. Carter '93 and another students,speaking on the condition of anonymity, describedanother incident, on April 13, in which policeallegedly acted inappropriately

The two Black women said a University securityguard ignored their cries after five half-clothedwhite men made sexually harassing comments andgestures at them outside Claverly Hall.

They both said the guard ignored them becausethey are Black.

"I yelled to the guard who was across thestreet," one of the women said. "He said he couldnot hear me. I don't understand why he did notcross the street to see what I was screamingabout."

"I'm hard pressed to believe that if five Blackmales had flashed two white women the situationwould have turned out the same way," she said.

But Operations Manager Robert J. Dowling, whooversees Harvard security guards, said the guarddid not ignore the women because of their skincolor. He said the guard did not see the incident.

"He didn't think anything happened," Dowlingsaid. "It was not be cause they were Black. If hehad come out five minutes earlier, you can betyour life he would have done something about it."

Dowling could not explain why the guard did notinvestigate the situation. "I thought he shouldhave, but I'm playing Monday morning quarterback,"he said.

Police officers who responded to the call askedeveryone inside the Phoenix Club to step outside,police said. The women then identified one of thefive men, police said.

At that point, a club member accused one of thewomen of theatening him with a knife, police said.

Sgt. Stanford, the supervising officer at thescene, told the man that his charge was "frivolousand vindictive" and continued with interviewingclub members.

After completing the field interviews, the manrepeated the charge and Stanford frisked thewomen. She told the women that she frisked them toindicate on the police record that the charge wasfalse.

The women said they were upset that they werefrisked in front of the men, but said theyunderstood why they were frisked.

"I have no problem with Sgt. Stanford," onewoman said. "I'm very glad that she was the personthat came."

Carter said although Stanford acted properly,the police department as a whole is a racistorganization.

"She is the exception rather than the rule,"said Carter. "It's not that there aren't anyexceptions, but this highlights the pervasivenessof racial insensitivity at the Harvard PoliceDepartment.

Stanford said the description of this incidentin the BSA flyer was misleading.

"One of the frightened victims was then falselyaccused of possessing a knife and, subsequentlyfrisked," the flyer reads.

Stanford said readers might conclude that thepolice accused the women. Both women agreed withthe police account which indicated that the clubmember made the charge.

BSA president Ali said the community should notfocus on the frisking of the students. "Ourproblem is with the security guard," said Ali."Our problem is not with the knife.

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