NEWS

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April 6, 2010

Report on student arrest outlines policy changes

The University apologized over the February arrest of fourth-year Mauriece Dawson and announced a series of policy changes to prevent a similar incident in an announcement Friday.

Addressed to the University community and in part a response to a March 2 open forum on the arrest, the announcement contained a somewhat detailed report on Dawson’s arrest in Regenstein Library and the month-long investigation that followed. It indicated the University police (UCPD) officer who arrested Dawson was suspended from the force, and that Dawson may not face criminal charges.

The Alliance for Student and Community Rights (ASCR), a working group of concerned students that organized the night of the open forum, has stayed involved with the investigation and are drafting a response to the announcement that was unavailable as of press time. ASCR met with administrators as they were drafting the report; the group issued a list of demands to the administration Saturday. Students privy to the demands told the Maroon the report addressed them in part.

Chief among the announced policy intiatives are the creation of a code of conduct for the Libraries; a new, independent official to review complaints made against the UCPD; and official and regular communication between the UCPD and various groups across campus.

“We would like to say at the outset that we are deeply sorry for the events of that evening, grateful for the many ways in which campus constituents have contributed to the resulting discussion, and committed to implementing a set of thoughtful institutional changes that will prevent a recurrence,” said the announcement, which was written by Vice-President for Campus Life Kim Goff-Crews, Chief of Police Marlon Lynch, and University Library Director Judith Nadler.

The announcement was contrite over the police officer’s response to Dawson's arrest and said current policies were inadequate in informing decisions as they happened. “At the same time,” the report said, “it is important to recognize that there is shared responsibility: each of the individuals involved in this incident made choices that contributed to an unfortunate escalation of events.” The announcement was posted on the Web site of the Office of Campus and Student Life.

University spokesperson Steve Kloehn said Student Government (SG) and certain student groups have been made aware of the announcement’s existence, although he did not mention ASCR. “We’ve made an effort to make sure that anybody who's expressed concern about it...are aware that that report is up and available now.” In addition, the two official complainants were told of the decision.

The investigation into the conduct of the officer, whom witnesses identified as Sgt. Eric Grays, determined he failed to explain why he was called to the Library (Dawson and his friends had been making noise on their way to the A-level, apparently upsetting a library clerk), failed to explain why he asked Dawson to leave the Library (witnesses said Grays demanded Dawson leave without explanation), and that he used excessive force in handcuffing Dawson (who was wrestled and pinned to the ground, possibly hitting his head on a desk in the process). The officer has been suspended and recieved a written reprimand, the report said, and he will undergo further training on how to use force. Kloehn could not identify the officer due to employee privacy issues.

The investigation was led by UCPD Captain Kelvin Pope and conducted by UCPD officers “at the command level,” Kloehn said, although he could not be more specific. In the interest of objectivity, the report said, Lynch brought in Dr. Alex Weiss, a consultant on cases involving racial profiling and a former public safety officer at Northwestern, to examine the evidence. Twenty-five people were interviewed by the UCPD, according to the report.

The University will enact a number of policy changes and new initiatives based on the investigation (see below), which consisted of an internal Library review besides the UCPD investigation. The report will also act as the basis of a further review conducted by the standing Independent Review Committee. However, ASCR argues that there are "holes" in the report, according to fourth-year Tsion Gurmu, an ASCR spokesperson. ASCR is advocating that the University do more work “We look forward to seeing and hearing from [President Robert] Zimmer and other people who are in decision–making positions,” Gurmu said.

The report concluded that while library policy was not violated by the clerk who reported Dawson to the UCPD, it needs to be revised. To that end, a number of library bodies will soon approve a draft of a code of conduct “that will help to identify common ground, serve the scholarly mission of the Library, and articulate what constitutes accepted behavior in the University’s libraries,” the report said. The draft will be vetted by the Library Board, staff from the Library and the Office of Campus and Student Life, students on a Library committee, other community members, and finally at an open forum.

The code of conduct is slated to be put in place by the end of spring quarter, the report said, and Library staff will be trained based on its contents. At the March 2 open forum, assistant Library director James Vaughn said any new code would try to respect the Library’s culture.

UCPD initiatives will be aimed at increasing oversight of UCPD review processes and promoting communication with other bodies in the University, including the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA), the report said. A new position, independent of the UCPD but within the Office of Safety and Security, will review investigations into complaints, and a new Deputy Chief of Police will communicate regularly with OMSA.

Administrators will attempt to communicate across departments, with UCPD and Campus and Student Life officials working to prevent and mitigate incidents like Dawson’s arrest, which will include training staff members on ways to interact with students. Additionally, the UCPD will meet regularly with SG members, black students through OMSA, students who were at the March 2 open forum, and possibly others, “in order to improve communications, discuss issues of concern, and build trust,” the report said. Furthermore, the UCPD will hold speaking events where speakers will lead conversations on racial profiling and police accountability.

However, the report was not clear on how the UCPD would approach racial profiling in the future, a concern raised by many at the March 2 open forum. Though it said “The UCPD abhors the notion of racial profiling and will continue to train its officers not to engage in such profiling,” the report did not mention ending the practice entirely; the report continued: “The department also will continue to work toward better understanding with the community about what constitutes racial profiling and what is the basis of good police work.” Kloehn did not clarify.

The announcement also indicated Dawson may not face criminal charges. Dawson faced two charges, criminal trespass—he allegedly did not produce identification on request—and resisting arrest.

The University said the trespassing charge was dropped in a hearing the day after Dawson’s arrest, which the Cook County Attorney’s Office spokesperson Tandra Simonton confirmed with the Maroon, citing court records.

The University said the second charge would be dropped at a future court date: “The city ordinance-based resisting arrest violation was continued at that time, with a tentative agreement to dismiss that charge at a future court date. That outcome would end the case without any conviction or finding of fact.” Simonton could not confirm whether that was true.

Student response has been tempered in those who spoke with the Maroon, although all those who did mentioned they were grateful for the response. “The apology was graciously accepted and definitely appreciated,” said fourth-year Anya Thetford, a College Council representative and member of ASCR.

Speaking of ASCR’s response to the report, Thetford said, “It’s not a response to what our demands are, it’s just a response to the incident, but we also presume that when they were writing the report, they were taking our demands into account.”

Gurmu said the report did not address ASCR's demands adequately. “There are a number of points that the report failed to respond to from our list of demands, or fell short of what we asked of them,” she said.

Gurmu said ASCR has been working to represent as much of the student body as possible since it collected names in a notebook at the March 2 open forum. “We’ve been working to make sure that everything we're doing is public and transparent. We want as many students to be involved in this process as possible,” Gurmu said.

Though the administration did not meet many of ACSR’s demands, Gurmu said it was communicative and helpful. “The administration has been pretty cooperative throughout this process. They were ready and willing to meet with us right away. They talked to us the night of the public forum and we met with Kim [Goff-Crews] and other administrators since that time. She’s been an excellent resource throughout this process,” she said.

Thetford said the report should have addressed more systemic problems raised by Dawson’s arrest. “I, personally, have some concerns about institutional memory,” she said.

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POLICY RESPONSE TO THE STUDENT ARREST IN THE REG: The University announced a number of major policy changes and new initiatives in the wake of the arrest of fourth-year Mauriece Dawson. Other reviews are still pending, and some details have not been fully resolved.

UCPD INITIATIVES

•An independent position will be created that will review investigations into complaints filed against the UCPD. That position will be supplemented with an Independent Review Committee (IRC) review of the procedure by which community members file complaints against the police.

•The UCPD will begin meeting regularly with SG members, black students (through the Office of Multicultural Affairs [OMSA]), students who were at the March 2 open forum, and possibly others, “in order to improve communications, discuss issues of concern, and build trust,” the report said.

•There will be a new Deputy Chief of Police who will communicate regularly with OMSA, the report said. Lieutenant JoCathy Roberts will hold the position on an interim basis, and students will be involved in selecting the permanent deputy.

•The report said the UCPD will cosponsor speaking events aimed at engaging the community in conversations on police accountability and racial profiling.

LIBRARY INITIATIVES

•Library staff will draft a code of conduct—to be approved by Library officials, staff, and students—that, according to the report, “will help to identify common ground, serve the scholarly mission of the Library, and articulate what constitutes accepted behavior in the University’s libraries.”

CAMPUS AND STUDENT LIFE (CSL) INITIATIVES

•The administration has placed renewed emphasis on the Dean-on-Call program in order to mitigate the severity of similar incidents, as it has done in the past, the report said.

•The CSL and Human Resources will organize a “University-wide program for training staff members for interaction with students,” the report said.

•CSL will also undertake a review of student’s legal options