Police violence ends in stalemate

There will be no follow-up police investigation concerning the accusations of UVM police violence that were brought forward by three UVM sophomores at the Sept. 11 public hearing for the police service’s reaccreditation.Matt Aizenstadt and Brian Whalen, along with UVM sophomore Bill Belanger, reported two incidents. On the night of Sept. 8 they said they saw police officers approach a student walking on Pearl Street who appeared to be drunk. The officers proceeded to use threats and violence on the student, and then celebrated with a high-five, Aizenstadt, Whalen, and Belanger said.The assessment is being run by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). “We are unable to confirm or refute the accusations because the students are not coming forward with any more [testimony],” said UVM police Chief Gary Margolis in a phone interview. Margolis contacted the students, both by e-mail and in person after the hearing. While they were grateful for his concern, they would not work with him on a follow-up investigation, Margolis said. “I would be in favor of the police doing something,” said Aizenstadt, “But there would be no point in an investigation. “The only real thing that can be done is for more students to be educated about their rights. Every time I hear stories from people [about campus police], I tell them to look up the Fourth Amendment and what their rights are.” Brian Whalen, had his own reasons for not wishing to continue with a police follow-up. “I had an encounter with one of the same officers involved. I know what type of guy he is,” Whalen said. “I know that he would use this against me.”They also reported seeing campus police order a student to empty their backpack while standing in front of Simpson Hall.”Not every police officer I’ve encountered was like that,” said Whalen. “I think the officer that did that is an exaggeration of all UVM police officers. He’s an extreme.” Whalen said that he thinks that campus police have a bad relationship with students overall.Susan Lowrey, CALEA contact for the UVM police services, said these accusations about police misconduct are the first complaints that have been brought before the accreditation board. She does not know how they will affect the assessment. The results of the hearing will be released in November at another hearing. Whalen doesn’t think their testimonies will have any role in the final decision.