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Embattled Harvard Police Department Chief Will Retire by Year’s End

Harvard police chief Francis D. Riley will step down from his post by the end of the calendar year.
Harvard police chief Francis D. Riley will step down from his post by the end of the calendar year. By Zadoc I. N. Gee
By Ema R. Schumer, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard police chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley will step down from his post by the end of the calendar year, he announced in an emailed statement to the department Monday.

Riley, 74, will retire both after a turbulent quarter-century leading the Harvard University Police Department, and amid nationwide protests against police brutality. Prior to joining HUPD in 1996, Riley worked as a lieutenant colonel for the Massachusetts State Police.

Earlier this year, The Crimson published an investigation into Riley’s department that found repeated racist and sexist incidents inside the force spanning nearly three decades. In court documents, discrimination complaints, and interviews, roughly 20 current and former officers alleged he established a toxic culture inside the department that favored certain officers and retaliated against others who spoke up against their perceived mistreatment.

Riley subsequently set in motion a review of the department led by external law enforcement experts, which is still underway. That review has been criticized by the executive board of Harvard’s police union.

Riley’s statement did not directly refer to the department’s internal issues, or to the murder of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police on Memorial Day, an incident which has sparked protests across the country calling for the abolition of local police forces, including HUPD. Harvard officers have also been the subject of criticism for assisting the Boston Police Department at one such protest.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow wrote in a statement that he is grateful to Riley for his work leading HUPD. He added that Harvard plans to conduct a national search for a new police chief.

“I want to thank Chief Riley for his 25 years of service to Harvard and for his devotion and dedication to the security and safety of the Harvard community. At all times he has shown a deep commitment to the HUPD, the university and its mission, and to our community of faculty, students and staff,” Bacow wrote.

Riley wrote that he was honored to lead the department, referencing his work to move HUPD toward a community-policing model.

“When I began my tenure at Harvard, the campus was experiencing turbulence and extreme tension between the HUPD and the Harvard community,” he wrote. “We implemented new sensitivity training for our officers, made procedural changes in our policing culture, strategy, and tactics as well as hiring practices to recruit more minority and women candidates, and improve their career development and path to promotion.”

Riley also made an indirect mention of “events and issues that have arisen recently.”

“We must acknowledge the work that is needed on our part to strengthen the trust of our community, and specifically the trust of people of color and others in our community who have been marginalized,” he wrote. “That requires that, as a Department, we take the time to be both introspective in reviewing our culture, training and procedures, while also being open to the important conversations that we must have with our community as we pursue this goal.”

—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at ema.schumer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.

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