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External Review into Harvard Police Proposes Philosophical, Procedural Changes

An external review of the Harvard University Police Department released Tuesday recommended re-imagining Harvard's approach to public safety.
An external review of the Harvard University Police Department released Tuesday recommended re-imagining Harvard's approach to public safety. By Shera S. Avi-Yonah
By Raquel Coronell Uribe, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard released the findings of an external review into the University's police department Tuesday that recommended both long-term, philosophical reforms and immediate procedural changes to the department.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow announced the external review in June on the heels of public outrage over Harvard University Police Department officers monitoring a Black Lives Matter protest in Boston and longstanding criticisms of the department’s culture more broadly. The review was conducted by 21CP Solutions, an organization comprised of law enforcement experts who help to reform policing.

In the report, 21CP offered two primary recommendations. The first urges the University to engage in a “community-driven,” “stakeholder-informed” process of redefining public safety at Harvard.

The other primary recommendation suggests the University and HUPD consider more immediate changes, focused on five areas: strategic management, policies and procedures, information sharing, communication and transparency, and supporting relationships through administration and management.

The suggested reforms include creating a data and performance dashboard that publishes HUPD’s policing activity for review by the public; creating a department diversity and inclusion plan; and partnering with Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Services to respond to certain calls.

21CP wrote that HUPD should create a two-year plan for implementing those changes.

The report calls on Harvard to create a “diverse, active and engaged” advisory board or oversight committee, which would provide HUPD “guidance” and serve as an accountability mechanism, per the report.

Harvard Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp confirmed in a Tuesday interview with the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication, that the University will create two groups — a HUPD Advisory Board and a Facilitating Committee. The former will provide “guidance” and “feedback” to the department, while the latter is designed to “clearly define the Harvard community’s expectations with regards to safety and well-being,” she said.

The Advisory Board is expected to convene by March 31, and the Facilitating Committee will convene April 30, according to Lapp.

The report draws on internal documents pertaining to the police department’s administration, recruitment and hiring practices, and HUPD’s internal accountability process in addition to interviews with University affiliates.

Between July and September 2020, 21CP spoke with 110 affiliates — faculty, staff, students, and administrators — about their experiences with and views of HUPD, the report states. Among those 110 participants were affiliates from underrepresented backgrounds, BGLTQ individuals; and HUPD personnel and staff.

21CP wrote, however, that the document is not a “comprehensive report” into HUPD. The group stresses that Harvard tasked the group to conduct a review of the police department’s policies and internal culture, in addition to its interactions with Harvard affiliates.

A comprehensive assessment of the department, in contrast, would need to consider additional factors, such as evaluating the use of “force and stop” data and the integrity of internal accountability mechanisms. The report emphasizes that it is not “exhaustive” with respect to all of the ways HUPD “could or should” change.

The report comes as the University continues to search for a new chief of police after longtime chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley announced over the summer that he will retire by the end of the calendar year.

—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.

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