Editorial

BU racism, and the BUPD

Christopher Dignan’s life ended at 19 when a bullet tore through his brain. The fatal shot was fired by a Boston University campus police officer, and it shattered Christopher’s skull behind the ear. The BU cop claimed he fired in self-defense. Chris was not armed. The shooting happened miles from the college campus, and to the gratification of the BU administration no charges were ever filed.

Officer Kevin Bourque’s driver’s license was suspended. He never should have been driving the day he killed Christopher Dignan, but Boston University allowed him to operate a BUPD vehicle and kill with a firearm purchased by BU.

Christopher was slaughtered in a fashion ominously similar to another controversial police shooting just four years earlier. 14-year-old Levi Hart, a Roxbury teenager, was murdered by Bourque’s older brother Richard.

Last month BU cops voluntarily participated in a chase on Commonwealth Avenue. They were listening to local Police activity and decided to help. Boston and State police arrived to tell the BUPD they stopped the wrong car, and the vehicle occupants were allowed to go.

Engaging in a motor vehicle chase on streets filled with students is reckless behavior. It is in direct conflict with BUPD’s public safety mission. With allegations of theft, nepotism, bigotry, and racial profiling about to emerge the BUPD distracted and diverted professional law enforcement in an irresponsible attempt to spruce their image for the new University President.

BU’s private police force is an organization that doesn’t face any of the dangers State and Municipal police do. They attend training seminars, but in reality they never face situations that develop skills professional police rely upon. In fact professional law enforcement regards the BU police as a joke. BU’s private cops are essentially security guards who have little to do but investigate petty theft and student pranks.

Additionally the BUPD is a support department, and let me emphasize the word support because in the business of education revenue comes from tuition, and fees. The BUPD represents an expense on the University’s income statement, and that expense can easily take a bite out of the school’s operating budget. All that’s required is a little BUPD misconduct and the University must deal with litigation. The cost is passed in the form of higher tuition and fees.

It’s not difficult for a tragedy to occur. Arming fifty plus BU cops to provide security for a college campus is ridiculous, and redundant. BU’s urban campus is a short distance from several neighborhood police stations, and a State Police barracks.

Additionally I have never seen a Black BU police officer. Black enrollment at BU has been the lowest in of any university in greater Boston. This raises questions. Does a racial imbalance exist at the BUPD? I believe it does. Is there a link between BUPD’s racial imbalance and low minority enrollment?

The Boston Globe reported that BU’s current police Chief Robert Shea kept a BUPD booking photograph inside his car. The picture depicted white hands restraining a black man in a chokehold. The article went on to report Chief Shea said his wife, Anne Shea Vice-President of Enrollment and Student Affairs, “got a kick out of it”.

Are John ‘ Anne Shea are two powerful bigots who bring those attitudes to their jobs at BU? Colleges and Universities all over Massachusetts don’t have the problem BU does in enrolling minority students, but Anne Shea doesn’t oversee their admissions. Equally cities and towns throughout the commonwealth have no problem recruiting minority police officers, but Robert Shea is not their police Chief. In fact the BUPD racial composition resembles the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama Police force.

The hypocrisy and irony is that Boston University proclaims it is an “unbiased” establishment at the vanguard in the struggle for Civil Rights. They narrate a canned historical account listing early abolitionist investments. They romanticize the success of Dr Solomon Carter Fuller, the appointment of Howard Thurman, and the achievements of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Racial profiling absolutely happens every day at Boston University. The fact that BU limits African American enrollment and employment creates the environment. Singling out minorities for questioning is certainly valid in the eyes of the BUPD. The belief that Blacks probably have no business being on or near BU property is a compelling reason for targeting minorities.

Double standards always existed in the dispensation of justice. Police officers, prosecutors, Judges, and anyone who is part of the system are held to a much lower standard of behavior than the rest of us. The Suffolk county District Attorney has a tradition of not pursuing charges against Police officers. Last year’s Fenway Park pepperball incident indicates how true this is.

This special grace extends to the BU cops too. At the time of Chris Dignan’s death the Police Chief on the BU payroll was a retired Boston Police Superintendent. A long-standing amicable relationship existed between him and the Suffolk County DA’s office. Like so many times before, and so many times after, Innocent people are prosecuted, and murderers are allowed to walk free. With a wink and a nod officer Bourque faced no criminal responsibility.

There tend to be three categories of BU police officers. The first is the young individual who stays for a short time then moves on to a real law enforcement job. The second is the retiree who is looking for an easy job to stay busy, and supplement a retirement income.

The third group of BUPD officers is between the ages of thirty and fifty-five. Despite friends and relatives working for the State, cities, or towns these individuals never held a real law enforcement job. They have a lot of time invested with BU, and tend to be frustrated with their vocational goals. They are at the apex of their careers, and the chance they will overreact to the rare situation or create one like Kevin Bourque did exists. Add to the mix their lack of skill and the fact that BU police officers will never ever be prosecuted in Suffolk County and you have a recipe for another tragedy.

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