Internal problems in the police during the Johnson years have not been confined to issues of sensitivity.
In 1990, extensive protection of a Saudi Arabian prince by on-duty and off-duty Harvard police officers detracted from the work of the department's criminal investigation unit, The Crimson reported at the time.
Back then, Johnson insisted regulations were being followed and said the detail did not take away from regular police work. But after several months, then--General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54 scuttled the detail, arguing that prince had stayed too long and that the department's mission was protecting Harvard.
Earlier this academic year, the department experienced severe problems with its radio and telephone systems. In December, the department lost one of its radio channels, forcing the escort service, parking office and security office to use the same channel, according to department employees. Several security guards interviewed in January said the radio logjam might hurt their ability to respond in an emergency.
Last month, an internal police memo revealed that department employees have been disconnecting equipment that records incoming phone calls. The memo said the tampering jeopardized the department's ability to gather information in investigating crimes and in presenting evidence to a court.
"The ability to recapture information on crimes in progress, corroborating actions taken or not taken by the department, complaints and evidence for court is defeated," Johnson wrote in the memo. "It would be impossible for any officer in court to justify the inability to produce a recording due to the disconnection of the recording service."
But as for the current situation in the Harvard police, a senior police official said there is no better paradigm than the department's response to last month's Friday night shooting in Harvard Square.
Harvard officers responded promptly to the shooting, Detective Hubert Estes made an arrest, and the department as a whole reacted professionally.
But no one remembered to call Johnson that night, as required by department policy, to tell him about the shooting. Sgt. William Donaldson suggested the chief was called later that weekend, police sources suggested he learned about the shooting when top University officials called him to ask about the incident.