Campus & Community

Harvard to create Safety Advisory Committee and safety ombudsman function

5 min read

University implements recommendations to strengthen relations between HUPD and community

Harvard University officials today (Aug. 28) announced plans to implement recommendations included in a recently issued report that examined Harvard University Police Department’s (HUPD) relations with the rest of the Harvard community.

The report, which was released in April by a six-member committee appointed by Harvard President Drew Faust and led by former Suffolk County district attorney Ralph Martin II, outlined a series of suggested policy changes designed to reinforce the mutual respect between police officers and Harvard community members. While praising the department’s “well-earned reputation … for responsiveness and restraint,” the report noted that “both HUPD and the broader University community have work to do in order to achieve the shared goal of a welcoming, safe, and open environment.”

In response to the committee’s recommendations, Harvard will establish a University Safety Advisory Committee; deepen implementation of an “account management” model at HUPD; expand the role of the HUPD diversity and community liaison; and create a public safety ombudsman function within the University Ombudsman Office.

“I am grateful to Ralph Martin, members of the committee, the Police Department, and all the students, staff, and faculty who contributed their time and experiences to inform the report and shape its recommendations,” said Faust. “The report and the new University Safety Advisory Committee will continue to guide the University’s efforts to build a stronger and more collaborative relationship between the HUPD and other members of the Harvard community.”

“As President Faust has said, only through improved communication, mutual respect, and a willingness to acknowledge and carry out our own individual obligations can we as a University accomplish the goal of creating a campus that is as safe and as welcoming as possible for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman said. “Ensuring the safety of a large, open, urban campus will always pose unique challenges. By implementing these important policy changes, however, we can help advance the open communication and trust necessary both for HUPD to accomplish its critical public safety mission and for the broader educational environment Harvard seeks to foster.”

The new University Safety Advisory Committee will be chaired by Mark Moore, who served as a member of the committee chaired by Martin and is a leading authority on criminal justice policy and management. The committee — composed of faculty, staff, students, and HUPD representatives — will act as a parent committee to the existing College Safety Committee and will advise HUPD and University leaders in achieving their mission.

HUPD has already begun to implement an “account management” model in which Harvard’s geographic areas are broken down into six sectors – River, North Yard, Yard, Allston, Radcliffe, and Longwood. Assignments to each sector last at least a year in order to foster interaction and familiarity between HUPD and those in the area. Officers work with residential deans, House masters, and other University officials, and assume “ownership” of their respective geographic areas. To bolster this effort, two sergeants, working in conjunction with the HUPD diversity and community liaison, have been assigned to monitor day- and night-shift activity, respectively.

Sgt. Kevin Bryant, who recently took on the role of HUPD diversity and community liaison, reports directly to HUPD Chief Francis Riley. In addition to coordinating the work of the two sergeants assigned to monitor the activity of day and night shifts, Bryant will be working to identify opportunities for enhanced community outreach. He and the other community outreach sergeants and officers will be attending meetings across campus in the coming year to explore ways in which HUPD might further integrate itself into campus life.

University Ombudsman Lydia Cummings will assume the public safety ombudsman functions outlined in the report. In her newly expanded role, Cummings will meet with the Safety Advisory Committee, review and recommend resolutions to general and specific concerns raised by members of the University community, and bring any systemic issues to the attention of the administration, when warranted. To ensure that community members know where to bring issues, the office’s expanded role will be communicated on the Harvard College Web site, in the Handbook for Students, in House newsletters, in the Freshman Newsletter, and through the residential deans.

“The goal of maintaining a campus that is safe and welcoming is a shared responsibility that requires open and frequent communication. HUPD is committed to strengthening our existing community policing outreach efforts, working closely with the Safety Committee, and creating new lines of communication in support of this objective,” said Riley.

In addition to those recommendations above, Dean of the College Evelynn Hammonds will convene a series of meetings in the fall designed to identify opportunities for HUPD to become even more integrated into student and campus life. HUPD, the University Safety Advisory Committee, and the University ombudsman will likewise continue to review a number of potential initiatives that might help broaden the department’s efforts to strengthen relationships across the University.,