In an unexpected turnaround from last week’s decision to limit the content of its weekly public police log, the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) decided Tuesday to expand the report to include more than last week’s limited log—which only included reports of criminal activity—but still less than its original log format.
Because of concern expressed by people inside and outside the department, the new report will document all incidents that could result in either a criminal punishment or administrative action by Harvard, according to HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano.
HUPD Chief Francis D. “Bud” Riley said information about incidents that were excluded in last week’s log—including reports of suspicious activity, noise complaints and department assistance—were vital for the community’s safety and awareness.
“I was made aware of the concerns by many people…That made me and my staff look at the matter and change things we might have missed,” Riley said. “I was struck by the importance of some of the things we were leaving out.”
Well-being checks, lost property complaints and open door and window calls, which were reported in the log before last week, will remain absent from the document, as those incidents are unlikely to result in criminal or administrative enforcement.
Last week Catalano said worries that reports on attempted suicides jeopardized students’ privacy prompted the new log limitations. Since attempted suicides are often reported as well-being checks, they will continue to be withheld.
On Wednesday, Harvard Crimson President Amit R. Paley ’04 sent a letter with concerns about the previous week’s changes in reporting format to Riley, University President Lawrence H. Summers and General Counsel Robert W. Iuliano ’83. Others, including Undergraduate Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 and Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, also said last week that they disapproved of the changed format.
Paley’s letter contended that the log violated Massachusetts General Law because it did not include all “valid complaints.” And, Paley wrote, because the log is released weekly and not daily, HUPD was also breaking federal law.
Although Riley disputed that HUPD policy violated the law at any time during the revision process, he said that this most recent change eliminated concern about compliance with the law.
“There was some legitimacy to complaints about the prior format, but we were technically not in violation,” he said. “I’m fully confident we’re in compliance now.”
Although his letter was received after the newest change had been approved, Paley said The Crimson was pleased with this week’s reversal.
“The more information the police provide in logs, the more the community is able to gauge both the level of safety in the community and the activity of the police,” said Paley. “Whether it was a response to our letter or a discussion with the community, it’s not important. Now the community has information at their disposal, that’s what’s important.”
According to Paley, HUPD has promised to make a daily log available to the public.
Paley said The Crimson remains concerned that the reporting of sexual assaults and attempted suicides is not fully in compliance with federal and state statutes.
“The reason for posting is because it’s in the best interests of the Harvard and Cambridge community to know when and where these acts are occurring,” Paley said. “That awareness could reduce the level of crime.”
Riley said he is willing to hear public input and discuss the matter with The Crimson further.
“We’ve never covered up anything on campus in my entire tenure here,” he said. “It was never anybody’s intent to hide anything.”
—Staff writer Hana R. Alberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.