DPS threatens, yells profanities at apprehended suspect, student alleges
A student claims that in the early morning of Friday, March 19, 2010 she saw four Department of Public Safety officers apprehend a college-aged man and yell threats and profanities at him after they had cornered him near the Reiss Science Building and Henle Village.
“They said things like … ‘Who do you think you are, motherfucker?’” and threatened to use violence against him, Christine Pfeil (COL ’10), the student who witnessed the alleged incident, said. “The amount of ‘fucks’ I heard from a DPS officer was unreal.”
Pfeil said that the alleged events took place between 2:30 and 3 a.m. As she was walking past Reiss, she said, she noticed a DPS officer on the sidewalk looking up at a hill where five or six men who looked undergraduate-aged were standing. Within seconds, the officer and three other officers ran at the group of men. The men scattered and the four DPS officers caught only one of them.
At this point, Pfeil said, the officers began yelling at the man, using phrases like, “Get on the ground, you piece of shit,” and threatening to use their batons against him.
Pfeil, who became too nervous to watch from the sidewalk, went back to her Henle apartment and watched the rest of the incident from a window. She said that the DPS officers and the man, who she described as a young, white, wearing khaki shorts, and carrying a backpack, stood outside for another 20 minutes or so before the officers led him away in handcuffs.
Joseph Smith, the associate director of the Public Safety Department, said that he had not received a complaint about the officers’ behavior in the incident. He offered several ways that Pfeil could contact him to report what she saw, providing his direct line and offering to meet with her at the DPS office or somewhere else on campus.
“DPS strives to maintain the highest levels of integrity and takes very seriously any allegation of unprofessional behavior,” he wrote in an e-mail.
This morning in a phone call, he stressed again that he would be taking the matter very seriously.
Pfeil said she intends to report the incident to Smith today.
“I don’t know the whole situation,” she said. “I don’t know if the behavior was warranted, if the kids were being rowdy or threatening, if this was a situation where the officers were threatened. But I definitely want to bring this to attention if it is something that needs to be brought to someone’s attention.”
Photo by Juliana Brint
An earlier version of this article quoted Pfeil as saying she remembered a DPS officer saying, “Do you want to get beaten tonight?” Pfeil e-mailed Vox saying that she could no longer remember a DPS officer using those words, although she remembers DPS officers making similar threats.