ACLU to represent UMass employee in apparent racial profiling case

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus Courtesy photo

Staff Writer
Published: 10/10/2018 11:38:57 PM

AMHERST — The American Civil Liberties Union will be representing a black University of Massachusetts Amherst employee who was reported to the police while he walking to work last month.

The ACLU’s representation of Reg Andrade, a longtime case manager in the disability services office, was announced Wednesday, when the organization released a copy of a public records request submitted on Andrade’s behalf. The request is the first step in the ACLU’s representation of Andrade, according to a press release.

The announcement comes as part of the organization’s “Living While Black on Campus” campaign, which is aimed at campuses with their own police and security forces. The ACLU is also representing Oumou Kanoute, the black Smith College student who was on lunch break when a staffer called campus police on her on July 31.

“We have seen it again and again: someone calls the police because a black or brown person looks ‘out of place,’” Rahsaan Hall, the director of the ACLU of Massachusetts racial justice program, said in a statement. “Police departments have choices about how to react to biased calls. Too often, they act as instruments for the biased callers.

The ACLU says its campaign will provide “model policies for administrators and toolkits and resources for students who wish to lobby for change.” To that end, Hall said the organization hopes to learn more about the anonymous call and subsequent police response at UMass Amherst.

On Sept. 14, an unidentified caller rang the university’s anonymous tip line saying that a “very agitated” African-American man had walked into the Whitmore Administration Building with a “large duffel bag … hanging off a strap, very heavy hanging on the ground,” according to a transcript of the call the Gazette obtained through a public records request.

Police shut down the building and questioned Andrade — about what he did the night before, when he got to campus, whether he was upset walking into the building. It was only after that questioning that he learned why the police were interrogating him, he told the Gazette shortly after the incident.

Andrade himself penned an article for the ACLU’s blog on Wednesday, detailing what happened to him last month in his own words. He said racial profiling isn’t anything new at predominantly white institutions — it has happened to him twice before on campus, once as an undergraduate and another time four years ago as an employee. This time, however, it made headlines across the country.

“The surveillance and policing of my behavior has taken a toll on my mental health,” Andrade said in the statement. “I feel paranoid and unsafe on a campus that claims to be inclusive. It feels like any move I make, no matter how ordinary, can trigger a stressful encounter with the cops.”

As part of their public records request, the ACLU has asked for the call transcript and recording, and any efforts to identify the caller. They’ve also requested documents detailing how the university plans to respond to this and other racial profiling incidents, as well as procedures and protocols related to the school’s anonymous tip line.

Most of the transcript of the call was released by UMass Amherst shortly after the incident. The transcript, obtained by the Gazette, reads in full:

“Good morning... at about 7:45, 7:43, Friday morning, September 14th, a gentleman, African-American, bald, red/white pinstripe shirt, dark khakis, large duffle bag on the right shoulder, hanging off a strap, very heavy hanging on the ground, seemed very agitated, walking up the ramp, into Whitmore. I thought I would send that information if someone could go and check ... because he seemed like a very upset young man walking into that building. Probably late 20’s, early 30’s.”

The university has thus far denied the Gazette access to the recording of the call, citing an exemption in state public records law for “investigatory materials.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.



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