This story is part of The Crimson's Ten Stories That Shaped 2020 series. To view other parts, click here.
A January investigation by The Crimson exposed instances of racism and sexism within the Harvard University Police Department, touching off a pair of reviews by the University, student demands for the department’s abolition, and the retirement of its police chief. Criticisms of HUPD in 2020 coincided with a national reckoning on systematic racism in policing that erupted during the summer.
The Crimson’s investigation cited officers’ allegations of widespread favoritism and retaliation within the department. They faulted HUPD’s chief of a quarter of a century, Francis D. “Bud” Riley, who they said was responsible for perpetuating a hostile work environment.
HUPD faced accusations of police brutality the following month after witnesses to an arrest at the Smith Campus Center claimed the arresting officer, Anthony T. Carvello, used excessive force on a Black man. A subsequent Crimson investigation found Carvello had used force while arresting Black homeless men at the Campus Center on two previous occasions, including an incident captured on video in which the officer put his hand on one man’s neck and an incident in which Carvello pepper sprayed another man and allegedly called him a “n----r.”
In June, the presence of HUPD officers monitoring a demonstration in Boston over the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by Minneapolis police, prompted swift backlash and renewed students’ calls to abolish the department.
Days later, Riley announced he would retire at the end of the calendar year, and University President Lawrence S. Bacow separately launched an independent review into HUPD’s practices, stating HUPD’s presence at the Boston protest raised “legitimate questions.” The results of the review, released in December, included recommendations for long-term, philosophical reforms to the department as well as immediate procedural changes.
As the nationwide search for Riley's successor remains ongoing, the University in December appointed Deputy Chief of Operations Denis Downing to serve as interim HUPD chief. The candidate whom Harvard ultimately selects to lead its police department in 2021 will have to confront conflicts within the department, implement the external review’s recommendations, and restore trust between the department and University affiliates. A September survey by The Crimson found nearly one third of College students support the abolition or defunding of HUPD.
—Staff writer Raquel Coronell Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @raquelco15.