Loyola University Chicago police officers did not use excessive force in detaining two students of color during a February confrontation that was caught on a video viewed millions of times, says a new report from the Jesuit school in Rogers Park.
Released Wednesday, the report found that campus police used “inappropriate control techniques” but not force in detaining the students during a February 24 confrontation, a video of which went viral on social media. The report also concluded the officers did not racially profile two black men accused of scalping tickets to a Loyola Ramblers’ basketball game.
The report was written by Hillard Heintze, a private security firm in Chicago hired by the school to work with a student-faculty task force on an independent investigation of the incident.
Two of the students involved have sued the school in federal court charging that they were victims of excessive force and their civil rights were violated.
Loyola posted the new report on its website along with a statement saying that the findings were “currently being reviewed by the President and university leadership.” The full 162-page report is protected by a password and accessible only to those with a Loyola e-mail address, but the Reader was able to view the document.
All of the names of the students involved in the incident have been removed from the report except for those of Alan Campbell and Paloma Fernandez, the two student activists who filed a lawsuit against the university in federal court in March. In addition to claims that campus safety officers violated the students’ civil rights and used excessive force, the lawsuit maintains that Loyola defamed and intentionally caused them emotional distress, according to the student newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix.
Two Black students were racially profiled and publicly assaulted by Loyola's campus police. This is unacceptable and we will be retaliating. Share this so Loyola won't be able to bury it. pic.twitter.com/9jyiN6ePed
— gianna (@geyoncee_) February 25, 2018
It all stems from a series of events that followed the men’s basketball team’s last home game of the season, just before it became the underdog darlings of the NCAA basketball tournament. Campbell, who’s black, and Fernandez, who’s Latina, were among a group of student activists protesting inside the student center outside Gentile Arena. They were decrying the school’s plans to spend $18.5 million—including $2 million of student tuition money—on a new athletics practice facility.
While protesting, they witnessed a pair of campus officers frisking two black men who were allegedly scalping tickets to a basketball game and walked over to observe the interaction. Campbell began chanting to draw attention to the officers, and he, Fernandez, and others followed the officers as they escorted the alleged scalpers away from the student center entrance.
According to the report, the officers—Kevin Newman and Sergeant Joseph Pulido—”became concerned for their own safety” when the protesters got close to them as the walked toward a room in the student center. A third campus officer who arrived on the scene, Sergeant Bruce McCree, claims Campbell didn’t obey an order to stay back and made physical contact with him, but several witnesses—students and a Loyola staff member—say Campbell didn’t touch McCree and deny that he was told to back off, the report says.
McCree then threw Campbell to the ground, handcuffed him, and arrested him—a use of force that the report says was “justified and reasonable.” (The students’ lawsuit claims that McCree “quickly and aggressively grabbed Mr. Campbell in a ‘take-down’ maneuver and forced Mr. Campbell to the ground.”)
The video, which was shot by a student and which starts after the takedown, has been viewed close to three million times and retweeted almost 90,000 times on Twitter.
It shows Campbell being held by three officers. Pulido can be seen pinning Campbell’s knees while he is handcuffed. Fernandez kicks the officer’s glasses, which had fallen to the ground, and Pulido thenturns around, stands up, and grabs her by the shirt collar and yanks her toward a wall. According to the Loyola report, the officer “perceived Fernandez as a threat”—a threat that was “heightened” when she kicked his glasses.
According to the investigation, Pulido was justified in taking action because Fernandez “knowingly obstructed a peace officer” conducting “an authorized act.” But the report says Pulido “demonstrated poor control tactics.”
“Pulido used inappropriate control tactics in grabbing Fernandez by her collar and jerking her to her position on the opposite wall,” it states.
Officers planned to drive Campbell to the campus police station, but student protesters and community members surrounded the squad car where he was being held. After 30 minutes, police decided to release him, the report states. They also released the two alleged ticket resellers with a verbal warning.
After the video of Campbell’s arrest went viral, Loyola issued a statement the next day dismissing charges of racial profiling (“This incident was not about race—it was about safety”) and blaming Campbell for the officer’s treatment of him, writing: “The individual resisted and was brought to the ground and restrained for the safety of the individual and others.” The school also promised a full investigation.
— Loyola Phoenix (@PhoenixLUC) March 2, 2018
The report of the investigation also issues some recommendations for the university, including further training for campus police that covers “managing large crowds and events,” increased communication between police and the student body, and “greater transparency.”
A Loyola spokesperson said the recommendations have been received by the administration and that the school will “publicly announce further action steps based on Task Force recommendations” during the fall semester.
The students involved couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Their federal lawsuit is still pending.
Loyola has had a few black eyes this year to go along with the goodwill generated by the men’s basketball team’s Cinderella romp through March Madness.
Stand-up comic Hannibal Buress was kicked offstage for joking about the Roman Catholic church’s history of sexual abuse during a March performance on campus. In April, nontenured faculty members staged a one-day strike at Loyola before the union and the university agreed to a contract. Loyola had previously fought the establishment of the union and appealed the vote on religious grounds.