Officer's firing was for 'contact'
Party incident at Assumption
By Jacqueline Reis Telegram & Gazette Staff
WORCESTER- An Assumption College campus police officer has been dismissed after he inappropriately put his hands on a student while breaking up a party, according to college officials.
Brad Holmes, director of public safety at Assumption, said the officer was hired in August and was still in his probationary period, although he had retired from a municipal police job in a town. Chief Holmes would not give the officer's name or the municipality where he previously worked.
After an initial investigation into the Jan. 23 incident at Assumption, the officer was put on paid administrative leave. After further investigation, Assumption dismissed him last month.
"We determined that he wasn't suited for this type of environment," Chief Holmes said. "Campus policing is a little bit different from municipal law enforcement. We're dealing with an age group (in which) people are spreading their wings and learning about a lot of life issues while on campus. They sometimes tend to push the envelope, and you really have to have a special disposition."
The incident occurred just after midnight on a Sunday morning during the nor'easter that dumped about two feet of snow in the city. Members of Assumption's Office of Residential Life asked campus police to help them investigate a party at Authier and Dufault halls after a staff member thought she saw someone urinate off a balcony, according to Conway C.S. Campbell, director of residential life.
The six-person dorm room was for seniors, and some of the students inside had been drinking, Chief Holmes said. Some felt they hadn't done anything to warrant the police intrusion and began arguing, at which point an officer made "inappropriate contact" with one of the room's residents, Chief Holmes said. The campus newspaper, Le Provocateur, reported one witness's account that the officer "grabbed (a student) by the neck and threw him up against a wall." The witness declined to comment to the Telegram & Gazette, and Chief Holmes said the officer's contact with the student was "in the upper chest area anyway."
Another student who witnessed the incident also did not want to comment. The student the officer allegedly touched did not return calls or an e-mail for comment.
The student was not injured, Chief Holmes said, but others who witnessed it complained immediately to a sergeant who was at the scene, and the sergeant made initial inquiries. Chief Holmes followed up on it later that day, he said. Police did not make any arrests at the party, which was attended by approximately 25 people, Mr. Campbell said.
Erin K. Ahearn, president of the Student Government Association at Assumption, said that "obviously it was out of line to touch" a student, and she was pleased with the way the Department of Public Safety had followed up on the incident. "They went through all of the appropriate actions and procedures to talk to students to find out what the true story was," she said. "This is a very isolated incident, and it's not something that we usually see from the public safety officers on campus."
Assumption has eight police officers, three sergeants, two lieutenants, a chief and several part-time officers who serve the campus population of approximately 1,950, according to Chief Holmes. The officers carry guns and have police powers equal to those of a municipal or state police officer while on campus, and many of them are former municipal officers. They must complete at least 40 hours of in-service training a year, which they typically do over the summer. This summer's offerings will include a course on "verbal judo" that addresses how to de-escalate situations and speak respectfully to people, Chief Holmes said.