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Community Policing at Harvard

The arrest of an undergraduate student on April 13 has generated many important questions and surfaced deep feelings of concern among University affiliates. Last week, University President Drew G. Faust announced the creation of a committee that will “seek to gain an understanding of how the College, HUHS, and HUPD responded to (and were able to respond to) events such as those that occurred in this instance.” As the committee undertakes its review, I write to share with you the core values that guide the work of the Harvard University Police Department and how we approach maintaining safety and security on campus.

Since I began serving as Chief in 1996, the HUPD has worked tirelessly to transform and maintain a professional and progressive atmosphere within the Department, to ensure that we are in the best position to effectively serve Harvard’s vibrant and diverse educational and research community. As part of our departmental mission and philosophy, we at HUPD are committed to providing a safe, secure, and welcoming environment for everyone. To fulfill this mission, the Department has actively engaged in a community-oriented problem-solving philosophy. This philosophy requires members of the HUPD to establish partnerships with all segments of the community. These partnerships are the foundation of effective problem solving and crime prevention.

The HUPD's relationship with the community is vital to achieving our mission. I have made earning this community’s trust and respect a priority in my time here at Harvard. Over the past two decades, we have worked with diverse groups of students (both undergraduate and graduate), faculty, and staff, as well as nationally recognized experts, toward this effort. As an example, in 2015, HUPD became the second university police department in the country to cycle all of its officers through procedural justice training, which emphasizes fairness and transparency. We also regularly conduct reviews of our community engagement and outreach efforts with the help of recognized experts in public safety organizational performance.

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As the head of the Harvard University Police Department, I have set high expectations for my officers and myself, and it is my hope that every interaction that students, faculty, and staff have with a member of the force is a positive one. Has the HUPD ever fallen short of meeting its own expectations? Yes. I wish it were otherwise, but I am proud of the fact that those moments have been exceedingly rare and that the HUPD has used them—and the criticism they have generated—as opportunities to improve. I realize that as a Department, “we are only as good as our last interaction.”

I speak for the entire department when I say that we are honored to be members of the Harvard community. It is deeply satisfying to work with people within an institution whose core belief is in the promise of bringing individuals from vastly different backgrounds together to seek understanding, to ask and answer questions, and to foster mutual respect. Our purpose is to maintain a safe and secure environment within and towards these goals.

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Francis “Bud” D. Riley is the Chief of Police of the Harvard University Police Department.

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