Response to Campus Concerns
Interim Chancellor Katherine Newman and UMass Boston Police Chief Donald Baynard sent messages to the campus community on Thursday about the presence of state police on campus.
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To all faculty, staff, and students,
I write to tell you that the state police presence on campus has ended.
I would like to thank everyone involved, including President Marty Meehan, for their empathy with members of our majority-minority campus who felt unheard, offended, or frightened by the presence on campus of state police.
I want to be clear that the campus was tapped for access to parking space in accordance with a long-running practice among the commonwealth’s public safety agencies of providing mutual support. It has been similarly used in the past for events such as the Boston Marathon, the women’s march, sports victory parades, and President Barack Obama’s visit to Boston when the city was crowded and in need of overflow parking for police agencies.
This presence should not be understood by anyone as tantamount to endorsing police misconduct. In fact, many police officers, including Boston Police Superintendent William Gross himself, have expressed outrage at the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Our own Campus Police Chief Donald Baynard has expressed similar sentiments, as have many officers and police chiefs who have “taken a knee” in solidarity with protesters.
Nonetheless, for people who have historically, systematically, and even routinely been victims of police misconduct, the presence of such an intimidating display of police power is unnerving. For that reason, it can also serve as an implied deterrent to the right to protest that is a foundation on which the nation was built.
Most importantly, we stand with our students, faculty, and staff—especially people of color—in condemning racism and the violence that it so often inevitably leads to. And we understand—as leaders of an institution founded on the belief that all classes, races, ethnicities, and identities deserve the best of higher education—that we play a special role in the battle for social justice.
We are beginning in our own backyard, with Chief Baynard implementing a Police Community Advisory Board that will consist of students, faculty, and staff. This board will provide an opportunity to enhance the relationship and communications between our public safety department and our university community through discussion of a broad range of issues.
This will be a very helpful complement to the efforts of Mayor Marty Walsh who yesterday “pledged to make Boston a national leader in battling racism going forward, and vowed to make change in a city that has a fraught history around race relations and bigotry.” As the city’s only public research university—with distinguished academic programs in criminal justice and conflict resolution, as well as scholars in many disciplines who focus on racial disparities in the U.S. and Boston specifically—we aim to be key contributors to the mayor’s and other similar efforts.
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To the campus community:
On behalf of the UMass Boston Police Department, I write to share that we are deeply saddened and angered by the egregious actions of the former Minneapolis police officers involved with George Floyd’s murder. The actions or inactions of the former police officers involved goes against every principle we, as peace officers stand for and the very oath, we all (law enforcement) took: to Uphold, Support, and Defend the United States Constitution; to Uphold the Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; to Faithfully and Diligently Safeguard the Welfare, Rights and Liberties of the members of our Community.
It goes against everything we have been trained on and learned throughout the police academy and our careers. Mr. Floyd’s death was horrific, reprehensible, and dehumanizing. It is disgraceful to the badge, to the uniform, and to the law enforcement profession. The lack of human decency and compassion for life by those former officers displayed is sickening and unfathomable to say the least.
As a community, we are all struggling with overwhelming emotions around the death of Mr. Floyd, continuous police violence, and social injustice. As leaders in the community, we are dedicated to the safety and support of all members of our community during these challenging times. No matter what race we are, what religious beliefs we have, sexual orientation, how we identify, or what profession you serve, each of us deserves dignity, respect, and fair treatment. None of us deserve to live in fear.
As a commitment to ensuring these principles, I am implementing a Police Community Advisory Board that will consist of students, faculty, and staff. This board will be a vehicle to enhance the relationship and communications between our Department and the university community. We can use this group to discuss national topics and more importantly, we can use it to come together and affect change.
On the topic of communication, over the past few days, there has been Massachusetts State Police activity on-campus and at UMass Boston’s Bayside parking lot. The increased police activity and the use of our parking lots is consistent with a long-standing practice of inter-agency cooperation among the commonwealth’s public safety and law enforcement entities related to large scale events in Boston, such as, sports championship parades, prominent visitors to the city, marches/demonstrations, and large public funerals. Inter-agency cooperation helps promote public safety on and beyond campus, during everyday policing and in the case of large-scale public emergencies such as the Boston Marathon Bombing. We are annually engaged with other agencies in preparing for threats such as an active shooter, where we would rely on the support of these agencies to ensure a safe resolution.
The increased presence of police on our campus was not intended to sow fear in our community. This presence was not in response to any campus conditions and is not part of any long-term plan. We strongly support our students, faculty, and staff’s First Amendment right to free speech and the right to peacefully assemble.
In closing, we, the UMass Boston Police Department, are committed to being transparent and open. We want to enhance our relationships with the community and forge a long-lasting partnership.
Chief of Police