A Kinder, Gentler Police Force

HUPD's transition from a conventional law enforcement agency to a community police force has been a near-total success.

The Harvard University Police Department has come a long way since the days when 400 police officers--most from surrounding areas--ejected students from University Hall in 1969.

Dressed in riot gear, with acid-proof coveralls, helmets, masks and shields, they didn't hesitate to wield their batons in forcibly removing students from the building.

But today, even as the campus sees a new wave of civil disobedience, students are more likely to praise police officers than fear a use of force.


HUPD Chief Francis D. "Bud" Riley says that change in officers' relationship with the student body has come through community policing and better training.

Riley said reaching out to minority students--who have not always praised the department--has been a top priority since he arrived at Harvard in 1996.

"It became apparent that there were communications issues that needed to be addressed, particularly with black students and ethnic [minority] students. I wanted to make sure that the problem [of troubled relations with minority students] . . .was not just a rehash of one incident, and I really didn't have a clue as to how to go about trying to analyze that."

After surveying minority students about their attitudes toward the department, Riley instituted sensitivity training and focused the department on a community policing model.

"We put every member of the department through training for community policing orientation," he says. "One of the biggest benefits is that police have gotten to know the students. The idea that they are here to police the students is a thing of the past, and dealing with and getting to know the students, faculty and staff around campus, the officers have a better realization of the what the Harvard community is all about," Riley says.

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