Harvard Police: New Programs and old Criticism

University Police Department Launches Community Patrol Initiative, Confronts Charges of Racial Discrimination

Harvard Police Chief Paul E. Johnson must recognize the irony of his situation.

In February, Johnson hires the department's most ethnically diverse class of officers ever and announces a highly-praised community policing program.

Three months later, minority groups on campus publicly charge the department with discrimination and a handful of minority security guards describe racial harassment the division.

"WE had our ups and downs," Johnson notes.

The chief appears somewhat worn during the year's last interview. He takes a deep breath, and defends once more the integrity of the department.


For much of the year, it was business-as-usual for the campus cops: catching criminals, protecting dignitaries, breaking up parties.

one of Johnson's biggest headaches was a rash of bike thefts that plagued the Houses and the Yard.

"Bike larcenies are a problem," says Johnson. "There is a big visible black market out there in bikes."

But bike thefts are far from the most serious crimes in Cambridge. Johnson cites a rise in the number of major arrests in the past few months.

"We've locked up people responsible for 15 to 20 larcenies of credit cards," says Johnson.

Harvard Police also helped capture a man who pulled a gun on Harvard lacrosse players just one week after shooting three people in Boston.

Two months later, Harvard detectives traveled to New Hampshire and nailed a longtime Harvard yard wallet thief.

That arrest, described as "well executed," boosted morale in the department. But Johnson says spirits were at a peak with the addition of 11 new officers in February.

The class was the largest group hired since the mid-seventies, and the most diverse (including two Blacks, one Asian, and three women) in the history of the department.

"Hiring the new officers was a high point during the year," says Sgt. Larry J. Fennelly, who coordinated the rookies' graduation and orientation in the department.