The Harvard Alliance Against Campus Cops called for the abolition of the Harvard University Police Department and presented a report on the police force’s history and procedures in a remote event Tuesday.
The group of students and alumni, which formed this summer in the wake of the murders of George Floyd and other Black people by law enforcement officers, released a 143-page report over the weekend entitled “Harvard’s Finest?: The Case for the Abolition of the Harvard University Police Department.” The report, which group members spent five months researching and producing, cites Crimson articles, archival material, and HUPD police logs.
During the event, HAACC member Ifeoluwani “Ife” E. Omidiran ’22 alleged HUPD is a “force of violence against Black people, people of color, and poor people.”
Omidiran, who is a Crimson Arts editor, referenced HUPD officer Anthony T. Carvello’s alleged use of excessive force while arresting Black homeless men during the 2019-2020 academic year; HUPD’s ties to the Cambridge Police Department, which came under fire in 2018 following CPD’s controversial arrest of a black College student; and the police department’s frequent issuing of trespass warrants to individuals deemed “unwanted” on University property.
In an emailed statement, University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain noted an ongoing independent review of HUPD is assessing the department’s policing practices and its collaboration with local law enforcement agencies.
University President Lawrence S. Bacow announced the review in June after the presence of HUPD officers monitoring a Black Lives Matter protest in Boston incited condemnation from students and faculty alike.
Per Swain, the review will be published “in the coming weeks,” and will “serve as a roadmap for reimagining public safety within the Harvard community.”
In its report, HAACC set forth a seven-point list of demands it believes will set in motion the abolition of HUPD. Those include cutting the department’s budget by 80 percent, ending HUPD’s contracts with local law enforcement agencies — including CPD, Boston Police, and Massachusetts State Police — disarming HUPD, and subjecting HUPD, which is a private police force, to public records requests.
HAACC wrote in its report that it examined 11,000 HUPD police logs the department published between 2015 and 2020. According to the group’s analysis of those logs, HUPD officers most frequently deal with reports of theft, followed by reports of suspicious activity, reports of unwanted guests, and calls to assist Cambridge Police.
The group charged that incidents involving “suspicious activity” correlated with individuals experiencing mental illness, emotional distress, poverty, or houselessness.
“Within the ‘suspicious activity’ category, as well, are incidents that suggest mental illness or emotional distress (e.g., ‘Officers dispatched to a report of an individual screaming and throwing clothes in the area. Officers arrived and report individual gone on arrival’) or poverty (e.g., ‘Officers dispatched to a report of two individuals searching through recycling bins behind the building. Officers arrived and reported individuals gone on arrival’),” the report states.
Of the people HUPD arrested within that span of five years, the group found that 29.3 percent were experiencing housing insecurity and 35 percent were arrested for “trespassing.”
HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.
In an interview with The Crimson after the event, HAACC representative and Harvard Law School student Marina L. Multhaup said abolishing HUPD is a matter of “safety.”
“We made this report as an attempt to sort of really shed light on what HUPD does, which in our findings mainly came out to being a glorified insurance agency for Harvard students when things go missing and then to enact violence and sort of surveillance on Harvard students of color, maybe in general, but particularly Black and young community members and members who are experiencing houselessness,” she said.
“So then the question becomes, ‘what would make us safe, actually?’” Multhaup also said. “And we think that building up institutions and networks that actually address the root causes of harm and harms that arise is a different type of safety, one where needs are met rather than punished.”
Event organizers called for greater “transparency” especially in regards to the department’s finances, which Harvard does not divulge.
The report cites the most recent HUPD operating budget that Harvard published, which was $12,560,585 in 2011.
The HAACC report calls on the University to redistribute HUPD’s budget — which the group estimates is currently roughly $20 million — to other Harvard-related causes, such as purchasing personal protective equipment for all Harvard workers, expanding student and mental health services, and growing the financial aid program.
Swain, the Harvard spokesperson, declined to comment on whether HUPD Chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley or University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp — who oversees the department — are aware of HAACC’s report.
—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.