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The executive board members of the Harvard University Police Association union said Monday that they are not confident in the ongoing climate review of Harvard’s police because of department leadership's involvement.
The four officers who sit on HUPA’s executive board — President Michael J. Allen, Vice President Joseph E. Steverman, Treasurer Louis W. Favreau, and Secretary Michael E. Davenport — said in Monday interviews that they want an independent third party to carry out and oversee the review.
“We as an e-board believe the department has the right to have a review,” Allen said. “We just feel and have heard from many union members that any such review should be done by external persons who then report to the University.”
“We don’t believe anyone internal should be involved in the review,” he added.
Harvard University Police Department Chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley began a review into the culture of his department at the beginning of February. In an email sent to department employees, Riley wrote that the review was prompted by a January Crimson investigation, which found repeated instances of racism and sexism within HUPD and cited allegations that the department’s leadership displays favoritism toward some and retaliates against officers who raise concerns.
Two weeks ago, Riley wrote in an email to the department that he appointed a pair of outside law enforcement experts to oversee a review of the department’s culture and its dealings with the University more broadly.
Riley also wrote that he had selected five HUPD employees and a Harvard Human Resources representative to serve on the review’s “working group,” which he tasked with reviewing HUPD’s procedures for handling internal complaints and employee morale, among other issues. Members of the working group will solicit feedback from HUPD employees and University affiliates outside of the department.
The working group will report its findings to Riley as well as University Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp, according to Riley’s email.
University President Lawrence S. Bacow said in an interview last week that he supports the HUPD internal review. He deferred all questions regarding the review to Lapp.
Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to comment on the union’s concerns on Lapp’s behalf.
When asked for comment, HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano wrote in an email that the review will seek advice from outside experts and will share its findings at the end of the academic year. He added that the working group has begun conducting interviews.
Steverman said a review of HUPD is “a step in the right direction” but cited concerns with the current review’s structure.
Steverman said he does not believe the review will shed light on officers’ concerns because they are reluctant to speak openly to the working group. The working group consists of HUPD employees spanning the department’s ranks who are supposed to periodically update Riley on their findings.
“I think that the level of trust is not the level of trust that's necessary to get an honest answer,” he said.
Steverman also said he is aware that some officers have questioned whether the concerns they disclose to the working group would be kept confidential.
Catalano wrote in his email that the working group has offered department employees channels for expressing concerns anonymously.
Favreau said he believes Riley’s involvement in the review will prevent it from objectively interrogating his leadership.
“It’s an internal review of the department,” Favreau said. “Shouldn’t that also include the chief?”
Favreau also said the University should initiate a review conducted entirely by an independent party if it wants to accurately assess Harvard’s police force.
“I would imagine any company — if they want to truly find out what's going on within — they get people from without to do the investigation,” he said.
The ongoing review marks the fourth formal assessment of HUPD during Riley’s tenure.
In 1999, criminologist and Harvard Kennedy School research fellow George L. Kelling wrote a report of the department that was commissioned by Harvard and Riley. Kelling cited poor morale inside the department and conflict between Riley and some employees in his findings.
In 2008, former Harvard Human Resources representative Ann Dexter conducted the second review of the department during Riley’s leadership. The University declined The Crimson’s request for Dexter’s findings.
The following year, prompted by a series of incidents involving HUPD officers and minority Harvard undergraduates, then-University President Drew G. Faust appointed former Suffolk County District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II to assess HUPD’s relationship with University affiliates.
As a part of the current review, Riley tasked the working group with assessing the extent to which the department has implemented those previous reviews’ recommendations.
Law enforcement experts Ronald L. Davis and Brenda J. Bond-Fortier will bring federal law enforcement experience to oversee the department’s review.
Davis previously directed a branch of the United States Department of Justice that wrote policy regarding community-oriented policing. Former U.S. President Barack Obama chose Davis to direct a task force on innovative policing practices.
Bond-Fortier, who is a professor of public service at Suffolk University, formerly conducted criminal justice research at the Harvard Kennedy School. She currently serves as a law enforcement adviser to the Justice Department.
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