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Harvard police chief backs black students’ demands

Harvard University’s police chief this past week “clarified” his department’s reaction to an early-April “swatting” incident which affected four black residents of Leverett House.

The HUPD had responded in riot gear and armed with assault rifles to what ultimately was deemed an ersatz 911 call from a person claiming to have a female hostage at the dorm and had “unsuccessfully attempted to kill her.”

Harvard black student groups responded to the incident by making several demands, noting the university needs to “take action to repair the manifestations of [its] inaction.”

HUPD Police Chief Victor Clay (pictured) had said that his officers’ actions “aligned with law enforcement protocols” and were “based on an assessment of the level of potential threat to members of our community with regards to a potential public safety situation.”

But according to The Crimson, Clay said in a recent interview that Harvard “dropped the ball” with its response: “We took too long to talk to [students]. There was this delay that I still don’t understand why it occurred.”

Clay added he agreed “100 percent” with the five demands of 45 black student organizations made in the wake of the swatting, including “conduct[ing] a thorough investigation that centers [the victims’] humanity rather than institutional interests” and “implement[ion of] proactive mental health responses to incidents of racial trauma.”

MORE: Harvard closes campus police station because students are ‘intimidated’

“I don’t think their demands were unreasonable at all,” Clay said. “I am from the Black community. I know what they’re feeling. I know exactly what they’re feeling.”

From the story:

Clay also stressed that “there’s a human side to both sides of this conversation” and that HUPD is “hurting” along with students over the incident.

“Every single officer involved in the Leverett House incident really wants to talk to the students because they are actually hurting right now,” he said. “The fact that they feel that they traumatized these students even more than being targeted by the caller — it affects the officers.”

Clay said after an HUPD meeting Thursday, officers told him that they wanted to talk to the students and explain that they are “not there to intimidate” or “hurt” them. …

“This was a large hoax, and they’re playing this game across the country,” Clay said. “It really bothered me that he — first of all — got Harvard. He got us. And secondly, he’s gonna get a lot of — in whatever weird little world he lives in — a lot of credibility from doing that.”

Clay did reiterate that his officers’ use of assault weapons during their response was “appropriate,” saying “I don’t think we’re militarized at all. I think we have the weaponry that is minimally adequate considering the amount of violence in the United States.”

Nevertheless, Clay did concede more training with such weapons was “necessary.”

MORE: Harvard dean confirms it will use police to enforce social distancing

IMAGE: The Crimson/Twitter screencap

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.