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A Harvard University Police Depart spokesperson says that recent demands from the union representing Harvard’s police force compelled the University to lay off two officers in order to make room in the budget to accommodate the cost of the union’s requests.
The two officers were laid off last week.
Harvard recently lost an arbitration regarding employees’ payment and benefits with the Harvard University Police Association, the union which represents the police.
The negotiations involved almost $500,000 worth of wages and benefits, according to David Holway, the head of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, an umbrella organization of police officers.
The University said Monday that changes in union demands necessitated the layoffs.
“The Harvard University Police Department was forced to lay off two police officers on November 1, 2011, as a result of changes to shift assignments that were sought by the union that represents our officers,” HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano explained in an emailed statement. “The HUPD administration attempted to work out an arrangement with the Harvard University Police Association in order to avoid the lay-off but an agreement could not be reached.”
Catalano said Monday that the loss of two officers will not jeopardize campus safety.
“The positions eliminated do not affect current patrol operational levels and will not have an impact on the public safety of the University,” Catalano wrote.
But members of the Student Labor Action Movement voiced concern over the possible repercussions of laying off police officers.
“Anyone who goes to Harvard knows about the muggings that happen every couple weeks,” SLAM member William P. Whitham ’14 said. “SLAM is against all lay-offs, but you might argue that they’re the last people who should be laid off.”
Karen A. Narefsky ’11, also a member of SLAM, said, “I’m very disappointed to hear this. I hope that this is not a sign of more to come.”
Catalano wrote that the University is working with the union in hopes of avoiding further layoffs.
HUPA representatives could not be reached for comment.
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