Harvard University is conducting a review of its campus police (HUPD) after officers showed up at a demonstration in central Boston, joining forces with the local police department to oversee the protest.
The review comes as student activists are calling on the university to dismantle its police forces, partly because several HUPD officers helped the Boston Police Department during a June 2 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Franklin Park. In a photo circulated in the Harvard community, one of the officers can be seen wearing a helmet and a jacket emblazoned with the department’s coat of arms, apparently monitoring the sign-waving demonstrators.
“Harvard University deployed its police force…to help Boston police surveil, intimidate, and suppress protesters,” read a petition titled “Abolish HUPD,” although the Franklin Park demonstration remained largely peaceful. The Boston Police Department said it was “happy to confirm” only two arrests were made that night. One person was arrested and charged with assault and battery on a police officer, and the other was arrested and charged with breaking and entering a commercial building.
In a statement on Wednesday, Harvard president Lawrence Bacow confirmed that seven HUPD bicycle patrol officers were present at the Franklin Park demonstration, adding that they went to help monitor the crowd as part of a mutual aid agreement between Boston and Cambridge police.
“Boston and Cambridge police routinely render assistance to us when we have large events on our campus, including concerts, major athletic contests, and Commencement, as well as protests that attract large crowds that often include non-Harvard affiliates,” Bacow explained. “Similarly, we render assistance when needed.”
The officers’ presence, however, “has raised legitimate questions” about whether the role the HUPD plays is consistent with the university’s values, according to Bacow. He wrote that Harvard will start a new review of the department to examine its relationship with local law enforcement agencies and make sure that mutual aid agreements are “aligned with community policing values.”
Bacow faced criticism last week after students found his initial response to George Floyd’s death to be underwhelming. In his latest statement, however, Bacow endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that were triggered by Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody last month.
“Black lives matter, and we must use this moment to confront and remedy racial injustice,” he wrote. “Peaceful protests and raised voices in Cambridge and Boston, across the country, and around the world rightly demand real and meaningful change, change that will truly ensure equal justice for all.”