Harvard launched a nationwide search Thursday for its next chief of police, led by a special committee of members spanning the University’s schools.
Current Harvard University Police Department Chief Francis “Bud” D. Riley announced in June that he would retire by the end of the academic year after holding the post for almost 25 years. Prior to joining Harvard, Riley was lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police.
The person who the search committee taps to succeed Riley will be tasked with leading a university police department that has weathered criticisms for its treatment of minority officers and its policing behind the backdrop of a national movement against police brutality. Those criticisms have prompted some affiliates to call for its abolition.
The 16 members who comprise the search committee will hold listening sessions in the ensuing weeks and months, according to University spokesperson Nate Herpich. Herpich wrote in an email that those sessions will focus on the perspectives of all members of the University, including students, faculty, staff, and current HUPD officers.
Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker, who sits on the search committee, said in the emailed press statement he feels a “responsibility” to create an environment at Harvard where his athletes feel safe.
“As an educator first, I feel an obligation and a responsibility to create a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment where our players can learn and lead,” he said. “I want that same culture of inclusion for all of Harvard, and I want to ensure that the concerns and voices of all in our community, in particular our Black and minority students, are represented in important community decisions.”
Vice President for Campus Services Meredith L. Weenick, who co-chaired the University task force on Inclusion and Belonging initiated by former University President Drew G. Faust, said in the statement that she believes the next police chief needs to support a diverse array of affiliates.
“We have an opportunity to take a fresh approach to choosing HUPD’s next chief and to listen to the Harvard community along the way,” Weenick said. “The next chief will be charged with more than preventing crime; more importantly, this individual must support our students in their quest to push the boundaries of inquiry and in their efforts to effect lasting change to our world’s existing systems and structures.”
“This person will need to understand the diversity of points of view on our campuses and the unique cultures present in our 12 Schools, while championing the virtues of free speech,” she added.
Harvard Kennedy School professor Herman B. “Dutch” Leonard, who is also a part of the nationwide search, said in the statement he wants to see the next chief of police “strongly committed to community policing.”
“This means having a deep and positive relationship between all members of the community and the police department that is helping to provide safety and security for them,” Leonard said. “And having a relationship like that requires the police force — and, especially, the chief — to understand both the ordinary and the unique features of our community.”
Leonard also said Harvard should interrogate HUPD’s role within the broader institution of policing.
“In today’s climate of rethinking the balance of responsibilities between police and other agencies — mental health services providers, for example — Harvard may need to do some of its own reexamination of roles and responsibilities, so our next chief also needs to be able to help us reimagine, recalibrate, and redesign what a police force on a modern university campus should be,” he said.
Other members of the selection committee include History of Science professor and former Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds, Undergraduate Council President James A. Mathew ’21, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sherri A. Charleston, Harvard Law School professor Andrew M. Crespo, and Law School Dean for Administration Matt Gruber.
During his tenure, Riley said he moved HUPD toward a “community policing” model.
Still, the chief the committee selects will have to confront conflicts within the department and between HUPD and the broader University that surfaced during the tail of Riley’s tenure.
An investigation published by The Crimson in January found repeated instances of racism and sexism within HUPD’s walls spanning nearly three decades. In lawsuits, discrimination complaints, and interviews, more than 20 current and former HUPD employees accused Riley of creating a toxic workplace environment and showing favoritism to officers while retaliating against others who spoke out against the culture.
In February, a HUPD officer’s arrest of a black man at the Smith Campus Center drew scrutiny and accusations of excessive force by witnesses. A subsequent inquiry by The Crimson found that the same officer, Anthony T. Carvello, used force while arresting two other black men at the Center within a span of six months, both of whom accused Carvello of using unnecessary force.
In June, as protestors took to the streets of Boston to rally against the murder of George Floyd, the presence of HUPD officers assisting Boston Police at those gatherings provoked backlash on social media and renewed calls to abolish the department. Riley announced his retirement five days later.
Those incidents and criticisms led the University to set in motion an independent review of its police, which is currently underway.
—Staff writer Ema R. Schumer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emaschumer.