UVM eyewitnesses claim police violence

The UVM department of police services is undergoing an assessment of their program in order to get reaccreditation for law enforcement. At the public hearing on Monday, Sept. 11, UVM students expressed disappointment with UVM police.Todd Sheppard, of the South Burlington Police Department, said he has always “seen a level of professionalism in the UVM Police Department.” Students did not agree. “Professionalism is far from the term I’d use to describe the police officers on campus,” UVM sophomore Brian Whalen said. “The current police relationship with students is the worst since I’ve been here.”According to Whalen two police officers approached and questioned a UVM student walking on Pearl Street, “who from my perspective seemed drunk,” Whalen said. As the student started to walk away, one officer grabbed him and the student yelled, “I have rights too,” Whalen said. Matt Aizenstadt, a sophomore English major also witnessed the incident. “The kid took off running with the police chasing after him,” Aizenstadt said. Minutes later, the student jumped over some bushes and the UVM police officers followed him, Whalen said. After the student tripped and fell to the ground, “a cop tackled him and was grinding his knee into the kid’s head, even after he had been cuffed,” Aizenstadt said. “The kid yelled, ‘you already have me arrested stop using so much force,'” Whalen said.The cop replied, “If you make another move I’m going to taser you, you motherf****r,” Whalen said to the commission. After the arrest was made, the officer started, “screaming and high-fiving in the middle of the street, celebrating that they had caught this drunk student,” Aizenstadt said.The court date for this case is pending and UVM police services will not make the police report public until the case is arraigned. The assessment of UVM police services is done by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., which evaluates departments in four areas: policy and procedures, administration, operations, and support services. T.C. Fuller, an FBI special agent in Burlington, spoke on behalf of UVM police services and Chief Gary Margolis. “Their leadership in this regard is absolutely top flight,” Fuller said. “The police officers do a great job of blending into the background.” Stacey Miller, director of residential life, described the police staff as, “people we welcome into our lives as friends.” Miller said to the commission. “Gary has helped reslife implement the process to make students more accountable for their actions in the residence halls.”Lock Park, vice president of undergraduate education said, “campus police always walk a very fine line between education and public safety.” Along numerous ride-alongs, “I have seen the officers use remarkable restraint and take some abuse that I personally would have found difficult to respond to with such restraint,” Park said. Aizenstadt, Whalen, and another student Bill Belanger, a UVM sophomore, all said they had been harassed by campus police for wearing backpacks.Recently, an officer approached a group of students standing in front of Simpson Hall, and told one student wearing a book bag to empty out his backpack, Aizenstadt said. As the students began to disperse because of the police presence the officer yelled, “don’t make me chase you, you motherf****rs,” Aizenstadt said. “The on-campus cops aren’t doing a good job of blending into the background,” “Students need to actually contact the police, send letters to administrator, and talk to RA’s about their concerns”, Belanger said. Whalen added that most students didn’t even know about the hearing held by the commission. An email about it was sent out at 11 a.m. on Monday. “If kids had the opportunity to know about the conference, I could have gotten 100 to 200 students to show up to talk about their problems with campus police,” Whalen said.