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Riley Cannot Be Judge, Jury, and Defendant

By Zadoc I. N. Gee
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

The Harvard University Police Department will be undergoing a review of its internal climate with the help of national policing experts Ronald L. Davis and Brenda J. Bond-Fortier. The review, which will be spearheaded by HUPD Chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley and University Executive Vice President Katie N. Lapp, comes as a response to The Crimson’s report on HUPD’s culture of sexism, racism, and alleged favoritism spanning two decades.

The decision is by no means sufficient. It is also entirely unsurprising. Our institution has a long history of dodging responsibility behind obscure internal reviews and hiding behind administrative proceedings. From opposing third-party arbitration for sexual assault allegations to its controversial handling of the sexual misconduct claims against former Government Department Professor Jorge I. Dominguez, Harvard has repeatedly shown itself reluctant to accept fully external and transparent probes into its internal issues. That attitude, both during the Dominguez controversy and now, actively endangers its student body.

When the deeply troubling allegations against HUPD first emerged, we voiced our opinion unequivocally: “Riley Must Go.” As we detailed then, there is a strong moral case for demanding Riley's resignation. He either tolerated or actively facilitated the growth of a racist and sexist culture within his department. We also expressed the practical reasons for the necessity of his departure, given the possibility that students might grow reluctant to engage with a police department that fosters such a culture. We, like several student activist groups on campus, stand by that assessment, and by a completely unambiguous meaning of the word “must.”

Instead, Riley will be overseeing the review committee tasked with dealing with the very issues that several sources link directly to him.

The notion itself is, of course, borderline satirical. Riley has had 24 years to improve his department’s morale and deal with internal issues regarding discrimination and diversity. Doing as much is a core part of any leadership position. Instead, he presided over a period that saw as many anti-discrimination lawsuits directed against him personally as women promoted to leadership positions within the department. He has been specifically named as the origin of the HUPD’s toxic culture by several sources, including allegations that he sought to create an "old boys' network" where personal connections to him were excessively prized. Perhaps even more concerningly, three female employees filed affidavits detailing specific instances of sexist behavior allegedly perpetrated by Riley.

His actions speak for themselves. Yet according to the email announcement of the internal review he will be spearheading, Riley remains committed to improving department morale. Given his allegedly central role in a litany of climate issues within the department itself, it seems that goal would be best served by his departure. Indeed, unless Riley can definitively show that recent reports do not offer an accurate picture of the department, his resignation is imperative.

A response by HUPD and the University rooted in bureaucratic secrecy rather than accountability and transparency is not the solution; an internal review is by no means enough. Riley must go.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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