March 12, 2004

Protests increase pressure on administration

As a result of Friday's protest, which called local and media attention to the alleged incident of police brutality involving the University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD), University administrators have been forced to grapple with the difficult issue more openly and quell the potential tide of animosity within the community.

By marching in front of the Administration Building and police headquarters, the protest exerted pressure on University officials, most notably President Don Randel and executive director of the UCPD Rudy Nimocks.

The letter delivered to Nimocks, requesting an apology to Clemmie Carthans, the alleged victim of assault, failed to elicit a response from the UCPD. Nimocks declined to comment about the status of a formal apology, saying only that any complaint lodged against an officer was considered serious.

University Provost Richard Saller spoke favorably of Nimocks, praising his long record of distinguished service. "Mr. Nimocks is highly respected in surrounding communities. In general, he and his police force have done an excellent job—so much so that the communities of Woodlawn and North Kenwood have requested the presence of his police force."

The Committee on University Security, headed by law school professor David Strauss, has yet to meet as a committee on the current case. Strauss hopes to convene a meeting in spring quarter as early as possible. "It's impossible at this point to say how long our review will take," Strauss said. "We of course want to do the job right."

The UCPD completed its own internal investigation last Thursday, which it has referred to the CUS. The CUS will review the written materials and submit a report to Hank Webber, the vice president for community and governmental affairs. Webber ultimately reports to President Randel.

The CUS, headed by Law School professor David Strauss, has not established a timeline for completion of its review. It is still unclear what parts of the investigation's findings will be publicly released, as the University will not release the results of complaints about individual employees.

"It is important to note that the Committee is an independent entity," said Vice President and Dean of Students in the College Steve Klass. "It is not intended in any way to replace the University Police Department's own internal review and discipline procedures."

For now, the University administration remains tentative about stating its position on the case, pending the findings of the CUS. Saller emphasized the importance of the review process, saying, "It is essential that actions by the central administration be based on the facts of the case considered by due process. Since due process is not yet complete, I do not myself know what to believe of the conflicting testimony."

While the CUS continues its review process, the University is working with protesters to inform them of various regulations that must be followed in their demonstrations. Klass has advised students, for example, as to the hours they can protest on the quads and how to reserve space for protests. He also has reassured them of the University's expectations about the review process.

"Our goal is to ensure that procedural justice is served," said Klass, reaffirming his faith in the system of review conducted by the CUS and UCPD. "We want everyone to feel comfortable in our community environment and, to that end, I offer the services of all of my offices—as well as those of local deans of Students—as resources for anyone who needs to process this or any other issue further."