At Harvard Legacy of Slavery event, HUPD chief says modern law enforcement practices are ‘outdated’ | News


Harvard University Police Department Chief Victor A. Clay says current law enforcement recruiting and training practices are ‘outdated and ineffective’, calling on police departments to reform during a webinar hosted Thursday by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Clay’s remarks took place at an event called “Who Is Policing the Police?” which included a group of law enforcement experts.

“I don’t understand why we as an industry haven’t turned a corner and kind of moved the needle into the 21st century,” Clay said at the event. “The way some cops are trained now reminds me of how I was trained in the 80s.”

“We have to start this process of change, I don’t know why it’s so difficult,” he said. “It starts at the top. It starts with me here at Harvard.

Clay, who took over as HUPD chief in July, said he supports police reform “100%”, adding that modern police recruiting materials should focus on compassion and emotional intelligence, rather than tenacity.

“I also think that before we talk about defunding, reinventing, re-allocating funds – all of which have become slogans now, in some cases – we need to have a system behind this to support the police,” he said. he declares.

Panelists discussed non-policing public safety alternatives, including programs focused on responding to mental health emergencies. Cambridge City Council is currently evaluating two alternative public safety proposals.

“There needs to be more mental health professionals on a 24 hour basis to respond to those calls as well. There have to be after-school programs and employment programs for people who are struggling,” Clay said. “The systems that were in place to support the police no longer exist.”

Along with Clay, the webinar featured Rosa Brooks ’91, Professor at Georgetown Law School, Jeffrey Lopes, President of the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, and Hilary Rau, Vice President of Community Engagement for the Center for Policing Equity .

The event – ​​part of the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery launched by University President Lawrence S. Bacow in November 2019 – was co-sponsored by the Harvard Generational African American Students Association, a student-run organization dedicated to fostering inclusion among Black students and raising awareness of issues stemming from the legacy of slavery in the United States

“One of the things I hear from abolitionists — which I think many police officers agree with — is that we’re asking police officers to do too much,” Rau said. “There are ways to enhance public safety that have nothing to do with law enforcement. There are forms of criminalization that everyone agrees do nothing to keep people safe.

Lopes said community engagement efforts by law enforcement are important to improving policing.

“Historically there has been structural racism within the police – none of us can sit here and say that doesn’t exist,” Lopes said. “What we need to do is really start having those conversations from the inside and make sure we can address structural racism within our respective law enforcement agencies.”

In an interview after the webinar, Lopes said he hoped participating students would come away believing that empathy-based policing is possible.

“Police works when it’s done right, when it’s focused on community engagement,” Lopes said. “When policing is done with empathy and inclusion in mind, we can do so much together to make communities safer.”

—Editor Sarah Girma can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @SarahGirma_.

—Writer Brandon L. Kingdollar can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @newskingdollar.


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