Campus safety at the University of Vermont has always been an issue in the back of many students’ minds. Last Monday night it was brought right to the front when an unidentified suspect attacked and knocked to the ground while walking up Main Street towards the intersection with South Willard Street.
The suspect, described only as a 6-foot-2-inch tall man weighing about 220 pounds, might have fled the scene in a vehicle.Ê The female did not sustain any serious injuries.
The UVM Police Department and chief Dr. Gary J. Margolis have taken this attack as a signal that the awareness of crime and the ability to prevent it through awareness needs to increase.
The UVM Police Department released a message shortly after the attack on the girl which said that knowledge that crimes occur encourages communities to actively participate in crime prevention efforts such as locking doors, not walking alone,
reporting suspicious activity to police) and, therefore, creates a safer
environment. Lack of information invites complacency. This attack comes just more than a year after a UVM Police Officer Matthew Sheehan falsely arrested a black female when searching for a black male following a campus break-in. Officer Sheehan who had since been fired is trying to regain his job at UVM.
Sheehan told the Vermont Labor Relations Board on Tuesday that he was used as a scapegoat by UVM to defuse a racial incident.
“This is an instance where it is necessary for the university to find a scapegoat; that scapegoat is our client,” Sheehan’s attorney, Richard Cassidy, has said. “It is necessary for them because at the time these events occurred they were portrayed in the media as a situation of racial profiling.”
The board was hearing a grievance filed by Sheehan’s union.
UVM’s lawyer, Nicholas DiGiovonni Jr., said Sheehan was fired for violating department policy regarding use of deadly force, failure to follow orders and not being honest during an internal investigation into the incident.
“This is not a case about finding a scapegoat for the errors of others,” DiGiovonni told the board. “This is a case about one officer’s misconduct.”
Sheehan was fired after pulling his gun on a UVM student in November. Police were searching for a suspect in an armed robbery in a dormitory who was described as a black male. The student who was stopped was a black female.
The incident sparked discussions of how police treat minorities on campus and lead to the appointment of committees to look into diversity issues at UVM.
Ronald Rabideau, secretary treasurer of the Chauffeurs, Teamsters, Warehousemen and Helpers Union No. 597, said it was unclear that the student was a woman until after she was handcuffed.
ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ UVM spokesman Enrique Corredera said Tuesday night that the university is confident in how it has handled the case.
“We believe we acted appropriately,” he said. “We went through a very thorough and careful process before we rendered any decision. We will prevail through this challenge.”