UMass ends practice of posting arrestees’ names after outcry
Published: 12-08-2023 2:46 PM
Modified: 12-08-2023 6:08 PM
AMHERST — An Oct. 25 protest calling for University of Massachusetts administrators to cut ties with the defense industry and condemn Israel’s military actions in Gaza concluded with 56 students and one employee remaining in the Whitmore Administration Building after hours, refusing orders to leave and being arrested.
The 57 people taken were into custody by UMass police on charges of trespassing that evening, and by Nov. 3, each person’s name, age and address was posted on the online daily crime log published by the department.
Beginning this week, that sort of transparency is being curtailed, in part as a response to the Transformative Justice Coalition of UMass Amherst, which petitioned the campus administration to stop punishing students and staff arrested while protesting peacefully, said Sierra Dickey, the coalition’s spokesperson.
“As a result of previous UMPD policy to post identifying information online, several students and their parents were subject to anonymous threats and intimidation,” the coalition wrote in a press release. “Members of the campus community mobilized to call on administrators and the UMPD to change this policy, and we are gratified that these calls have been heard.”
The coalition, along with staff, faculty, students and families concerned with the privacy and safety of the campus community, called for the specifics of the daily crime log information to be shielded from those who use the department’s website. While state law requires arrest and call logs to be available, the names of those arrested, moving forward, can only be accessed in person at the campus police station on East Pleasant Street.
UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said this was a sensible change in policy. “We assessed the situation and, given the concerns about doxxing and harassment, we thought this a good step to take,” he said. Doxxing is the act of revealing identifying information about someone online.
He said the change will be consistent and holistic, so that all historical entries online are removed, and the policy also applies to those affiliated with the university, as well as those passing through or visiting the campus who encounter police.
This appears to comply with the state law, which states, “Each police department and each college or university to which officers have been appointed pursuant to section 63 of chapter 22C shall make, keep and maintain a daily log, written in a form that can be easily understood, recording, in chronological order, all responses to valid complaints received, crimes reported, the names, addresses of persons arrested and the charges against such persons arrested. All entries in said daily logs shall, unless otherwise provided in law, be public records available without charge to the public during regular business hours and at all other reasonable times.”
The logs now are posted monthly, with only a summary of arrests, court summons and incidents, such as vandalism, assault and battery, and no names.
Previously, the arrests and other incidents were embedded in a call-by-call summary for each day, with those arrested named and those summoned to court for show-cause hearings identified only by age and hometown.
The UMass practice differs from most of the larger communities in the region, such as Northampton, Amherst, Easthampton, South Hadley and Holyoke, all of which have the information of those arrested posted online on a daily or monthly basis, with the call-by-call logs also published, though with no specifics.
Even with this change, the Transformative Justice Coalition is calling on the administration to do more, and to stop punishing students and staff engaged in peaceful protest. Their rationale for staying in Whitmore was to bring their demands to Chancellor Javier Reyes, calling on UMass to cut ties with companies like Raytheon, whose weapons are being used in Israeli attacks on Hamas in Gaza.
To that end, the coalition gathered signatures on two petitions. The first calls on Reyes and Vice Chancellor Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed to take no disciplinary action against those arrested, and has been signed by 1,025 people. The second petition asks Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan to drop the criminal charges. That has 451 signatures.
“Although the UMass administration has taken one important step in recognizing the threat and damage that policing and punishment can bring, there is much work left to be done,” the coalition states. “The arrested students and staff continue to face criminal charges and disciplinary proceedings.”
There is also worry that UMass has begun issuing probation and additional punishments, but has not engaged in dialogue with the students and staff who were arrested. It also claims UMass has not acknowledged or attempted to repair “the sexist and heterosexist patterns” in the arrests, where some students were misgendered and masculine-presenting students were arrested later, detained longer and were subject to harsher detainment conditions.
“The Transformative Justice Coalition at UMass calls upon the administration to embrace conflict resolution strategies that reduce harm, strengthen community, build safety for all community members, and dismantle systems that cause systemic, disproportionate harm in the first place. Our policies and practices should not forbid and criminalize peaceful actions or divide and endanger our community through punishment.”
Scott Merzbach can be reached at email@example.com.