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Belligerent CP Mars Capture the Flag Night in Killian

Guest column by Christopher D. Cilley

I originally intended to write this piece 30 days ago. Right after an incident with the Campus Police, I was ready to whip off an angry letter to The Tech. After a day of reflection, however, I realized that it would be only fair to let the system run its course. Or not.

The following is the text of a formal complaint I filed with Campus Police during the early morning hours of Saturday, March 1:

Last Friday (Feb. 21) with the warming weather, Bexley residents held a late night "Capture the Flag" (tag, not tackle) game in Killian Court.

Leading up to tonight, a friendly challenge was issued to residents of Senior House for a game, again late at night (starting about midnight) at Killian. About 50 people total showed up (to my knowledge, all residents of Bexley Hall, Senior House, or a few student hangers-on). At about 1 a.m., two individuals showed up who none of us knew. This became apparent when one of the young men began desperately trying to pick a fight. He started out on the Bexley half of the courtyard. No one gave him provocation, despite his harsh words and pushing.

Finding no one willing to fight back, he proceeded to the other side, repeating his performance. A number of people tried to diffuse the situation, including me and another graduate resident tutor from Bexley.

Despite numerous requests to leave, we decided it would be best to call Campus Police to assist us and help avoid any injurious incident. Christopher (I don't remember his last name) called the CPs on the emergency phone near the entrance to Building 4. This was about 15 minutes after the apparently (obviously) drunk troublemaker showed up. The CPs arrived promptly (about three minutes) with two cars driving up to where we were.

I had no opportunity to explain any of the above to the officer who arrived first. His first words were to the effect of "Get out of here, what are you doing?" Despite calm, reasoned attempts to explain the situation (including the fact the troublemaker had 30 seconds previously entered Building 4), the officer seemingly ignored us. He repeated his demand for us to go back to our dorms and "get out." I politely asked for his name, to which he responded, "I don't have to tell you anything - get out of here."

He made no attempt to verify that we were MIT students. He said if I had questions, I could call the sergeant. I went to the emergency phone and did just that. Other choice quotes from this officer include, "The court is closed," "I'm going to call the wagon and start locking people up," and "Don't tell me how to do my job."

While I was at the phone, I know some of the other people (probably all at once) tried to reason with him. He got into his vehicle and drove a short distance away just as Sgt. William Rogers arrived. Sgt. Rogers was kind enough to allow me to explain the situation. Just then some students reported the troublemaker was hassling students just inside the Building 4 entrance. He and another officer dealt with that situation and released the young man, hopefully satisfied themselves he wouldn't cause anymore trouble. Sgt. Rogers and another officer suggested we go through the CPs or Dean's Office if we want to hold a similarly "large" event in the future but allowed us to continue with the admonishment to be careful.

I can honestly say that the overwhelming consensus among us was that Officer Joseph Fratto (I was told his name after I began writing this complaint) behaved in an incredibly discourteous and belligerent manner. He made no attempt to address the situation for which he was summoned but instead tried to intimidate all of us into going home. He as unwilling to give his name upon a polite request. Is that CP policy? He just showed up and kicked apart an otherwise fun and harmless game among MIT students.

I'm left with the feeling that calling the CPs left us with more trouble than good and the sinking feeling that 50 more students have learned that lesson about the Campus Police. I am both angered and saddened. I look forward to the resolution of this incident. Finally, I find it almost as disturbing that the other officers present seemed more than willing to let Fratto conduct things as he did.

After filing the report, I sent e-mail to both Chief of Police Anne P. Glavin and Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 imploring them to attend to the matter. Their responses indicated they had seen the complaint and were disturbed by it but said I would need to wait the 30 days to learn of its disposition (as indicated on the cover page of the complaint form).

About three weeks later, I received a phone call from the Campus Police lieutenant investigating my complaint. He wanted to know if there was anything I wanted to add to my statement. I said no. He then went on to explain that, while it is not an excuse for the behavior of the officers, the officers were probably on edge because just before coming to Killian Court, they had done a sweep of the Student Center to clear people out after an incident with "a minority sorority."

Thirty days have come and gone with no word to me or any effort made by the Campus Police to address what happened. The cover sheet to the complaint form states "MIT Campus Police prides itself with the courteous, professional manner with which it services the MIT community." As one professor to whom I related this story put it, the CPs are constantly telling us what a dangerous urban environment we live in on campus, and that is true. But it doesn't seem the most useful tactic for them to treat us like the very people they are protecting us from.

Christopher D. Cilley G is a graduate resident tutor in Bexley Hall.