May 20, 2013

Updated: External review findings of UCPD released

[media id="104949" align="left"/]This article was updated on May 21 at 3:55 a.m.

An external investigation found that the commanding officer who ordered a detective to work undercover at a protest on February 23 violated standing University policy but that no other University officials or police did so in their handling of campus protests last quarter.

Schiff Hardin LLP, the law firm that conducted the external review of the University of Chicago Police Department’s (UCPD) handling of the January 27 and the February 23 trauma center protests, did not find evidence that undercover policing techniques were used in any other protests, according to the report.

Investigators at Schiff Hardin found “no evidence that the conduct of University officials and members of the UCPD...violated any formal University or UCPD policy” except that of “the commanding officer who ordered the detective to ‘blend in and get intel,’” the report said.

According to the report, after identifying himself as a police liaison, a “term unknown to the UCPD officer,” history P.h.D student Toussaint Losier told protesters to remain on Center for Care and Discovery property. Losier denied this claim, citing his arrest report and a recently surfaced video demonstrating that he was trying to walk away from CCD property before an officer pulled him back and proceeded to arrest him. Neither Patricia Brown Holmes, the lead investigator, nor University spokesperson Steve Kloehn answered questions about how this evidence was used in the review process.

During their investigation, investigators Brown Holmes, Kelly Warner, and Sarah Ratliff interviewed 32 people, including students, University officials, UCPD officers, and UCPD command staff.

Holmes declined to comment regarding which specific people were interviewed. Protesters from community organizations Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY) and Southsiders Together Organizing for Power (STOP), as well as students, were contacted for and "provided some photographic and video evidence of the incidents."

The report does not say whether undercover videotaping, which was listed as part of the three plain clothes detectives’ assignments for the February 23 protest, violates University policy. Several campus community members alleged this occurred at that protest in last week’s open meeting with the Committee on Dissent and Protest.

In its list of recommendations, Schiff Hardin suggested that the University reevaluate UCPD policy as it pertains to protests, the Dean-on-Call process, and the use of “‘plain clothes’, ‘undercover’, and ‘covert’ operations.”

Executive Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial Officer Nim Chinniah, who oversees the Department of Safety and Security, and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Karen Warren-Coleman issued a statement to accompany the report spelling out several relevant actions that have been taken so far. These include the firing of the commanding officer who ordered the unauthorized undercover work and mandates that UCPD draft more comprehensive protest policy in line with “University values” and conduct more officer trainings on crowd control.

Regarding the Dean-on-Call process, the report stated that the program’s “purpose, functions, and limitations” are to be evaluated and updated. However, the statement pointed out, “Investigators found no evidence that staff violated any formal policies or protocol, including the actions of and related to the Dean-on-Call.”

In an email to the Maroon, Losier denounced the findings of the external investigators.

“The report is a whitewash of what took place,” he said. “It reads like a defense attorney’s closing argument.”