Columns, Opinion

Canceled: The BUPD — Part 5

Part 5: The (Racist, Useless) Presence of the BUPD — what exactly does the BUPD do?

“Active shooters. Terrorism. Violent crime. Sex crimes. Theft, robbery, burglary. Dealing with these crimes is the responsibility of BUPD,” a comment on Part 1 of this series stated. “I am more concerned about how they perform in that regard than salty students who footed a big bill for getting transported due to alcohol [poisoning].”

From the above list of crimes the commenter so generously provided, it would appear the Boston University Police Department is involved in stopping crime 24/7. Who could think or care about some “salty” student’s bad experiences if the only thing stopping our campus from developing into complete chaos and depravity is the BUPD? 

But is this comment accurate? What exactly does the BUPD do on a day-to-day basis? What crimes do they deal with most often? 

In 2005, The Daily Free Press published a scathing criticism of the BUPD’s racism. Our editors wrote: “BU’s private cops are essentially security guards who have little to do but investigate petty theft and student pranks.”

That is still true today. 

If you browse through BUPD crime logs, you will be met with a list of unbearably mundane incidents, most of which in no way required police intervention. 

From the Feb. 27–March 2 crime logs:

Protest at the GSU

A small group reportedly protested Aramark outside the GSU Thursday around 1:30 p.m. Protesters were gone by the time BUPD arrived.

Theft at FitRec

A caller reported that their backpack was stolen at FitRec Thursday around 11 a.m. and that they believed the thief was still in the building. BUPD arrived and the backpack was recovered.

Noise complaint near South Campus

Multiple callers reported that a vehicle was playing loud music in South Campus Sunday at 12 a.m. One caller stated that the vehicle was a navy blue SUV. When BUPD arrived, the Simmons Police Department was handling the situation.

Disorderly people at Case Athletic Center

Several disorderly skateboarders were outside the Case Athletic Center Monday around 4:30 p.m. BUPD arrived and removed four from the area.

Are you still entertained? Having gone through 2019’s crime log available on the DFP website, I can tell you it doesn’t get any more action-packed. 

These logs should tell you two things: one, that most of the incidents BUPD investigates on a day-to-day basis require no police intervention, and two, that the tasks BUPD executes on a daily basis could be handled by a task force of unarmed social workers. 

These logs are not only telling of how little the BUPD actually does on a day-to-day basis — they also are telling of how much detail they leave out of their reports. Even seemingly interesting incidents are painfully bereft. From the Oct. 31–Nov. 4 crime logs:

Suspicious person in West Campus

A caller reported a woman in her 40s trying to recruit people into a cult around 4 p.m. Monday on Commonwealth Ave. The case has been closed.

The case has been closed? No further detail on a person who was allegedly trying to recruit students into a cult? I say this not only as a nosy reporter, but as a student living on the Boston University campus — how was the case closed? What exactly was done to address the situation? 

Take this other report from the Feb. 7–11 crime logs:

Suspicious person near Warren Towers

A BUPD officer confronted a suspicious person in the alley by the Warren Towers bike room Monday at 1 a.m. The person left and the area was cleared.

Why was this person deemed “suspicious”?  

This lack of detail is dangerous. We as a student body do not know who the BUPD is informally stopping on a daily basis, and what exactly qualifies them as “suspicious” — racial demographics are absent from the crime logs. 

As the department has a history of racial profiling, and Black and Brown students have reported being followed and harassed by the BUPD, there aren’t too many conclusions we can draw here.

From these crime logs, we can form a disquieting and horrifically absurd picture of the BUPD as a police force who has the power to harass whoever they deem “suspicious,” while their main duties involve looking for lost backpacks. 

BU’s 2019 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report showed most of the crimes BUPD handled were drug-related and property theft. BUPD Lt. Daniel Healy was even reported saying in 2019, “By far the number-one crime reported on this campus and most campuses across the country is theft of property.” 

This is true across the years. The Massachusetts Crime Statistics database shows the crimes BUPD overwhelmingly dealt with from 2009 to 2019 are robbery, drug and liquor law violations, and aggravated assault. 

Though I find the idea of spending around $6 million on an entire police force for stolen property abhorrent, I’ll acknowledge that property is important to a lot of people. So, if the BUPD is spending most of its time and resources on property theft, what are they doing in this respect? 

In 2013, BUPD planted bikes loaded with GPS trackers around campus to catch bike thieves. This feels like a plot out of a Disney Channel original show. 

We aren’t paying 50 full-time sworn officers and several civilian dispatchers to patrol campus day and night when they’re too busy planting “bait bikes” for students to take.

Instead, we could simply install better quality cameras near bike racks and in libraries to monitor what happens to people’s property. We could give students secure bike locks. We could pay student security assistants higher wages so that they can better monitor other students’ property.

But then there’s the question of more serious crimes. After property theft and drug offenses, sexual assault and stalking were the second most reported crimes on the Charles River Campus. Any cursory research on BU will show you that we have a campus rape and sexual assault problem. Surely, the BUPD is useful in this regard, you may argue. How could we possibly abolish the BUPD when there are rapes on campus?

The answer is this: BUPD does not know how to properly handle rape and sexual assault cases. Abolishing the BUPD may actually help matters. This will be discussed in more detail in the next part of this series, but for now it is important to remember that the BUPD is not out solving crimes 24/7. 

The crime logs, crime statistic report and crime statistics website all indicate that BUPD spends most of its time investigating liquor law violations and stolen items. 

Is this worth sacrificing the comfort, safety and lives of Black and Brown students?

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