Brown fires officer after Nov. incident involving Dartmouth student

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 3/9/16 2:58pm

The Brown University Department of Public Safety officer implicated in the assault of Geovanni Cuevas '14 in November was fired by Brown.

The officer’s termination was announced in a campus-wide email last Tuesday from Russell Carey, the university’s executive vice president of planning on policy.

Carey wrote that the investigation concluded that the officer did not “follow departmental policies and procedures relating to decisions to trespass the student, engage in physical contact and to place him into custody.”

After the incident, the university put the officer on administrative leave. Carey wrote that Cuevas’ actions were not disruptive, noting that placing him under arrest was inappropriate. He wrote, however, that “the amount of force that was used to place the student guest into custody was not inconsistent with departmental policy or procedure.”

Cuevas, visiting Brown for the annual Latinx Ivy League Conference, said at the time that he confronted the officer about his handling of an intoxicated Brown student outside a party at the Machado House shortly after midnight on Nov. 14. He said that the interaction escalated and he was “slammed to the ground,” physically restrained and handcuffed by an officer.

Cuevas, after being detained for 30 minutes, was verified as a guest of the conference and the house by other students and released without arrest. No criminal charges were filed against him. Cuevas did not file an official complaint or take legal action following the incident.

“It’s important to recognize that Brown students don’t pay tuition to be racially profiled by their safety officers,” Cuevas said in a recent interview with The Dartmouth, adding that he never received an apology from the officer of Brown’s safety department.

Rafael Nunez ’18, who attended the conference, said he was glad to find out that the security officer was fired. Nunez said he was also impressed by how quickly students and administrators at Brown responded to the event.

The day after the original incident, Brown president Christina Paxson attended an open forum, at which students from the conference and Brown presented a list of demands. In a campus-wide email sent that evening, Paxson outlined an administrative response that included the university’s commitment to fully fund a new Latinx Conference.

“I’m happy to know that within the Ivy League there’s a school showing precedence for action like that,” Nunez said. “I honestly don’t think that would have happened at Dartmouth.”

Cuevas expressed a similar sentiment, noting that Latinx Conference delegates, as well as many of the students at Brown, should be lauded for their swift response to the assault.

“I felt like I was ready to leave the conference and never come back,” Cuevas said, of his reaction shortly after the incident. “But the student leaders got me to stay.”

Shortly after the November incident, Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity hosted an “emergency community meeting” in Cutter Shabazz to debrief students and discuss race and safety at the College. Several students voiced concerns over tensions along racial cleavages and peppered the discussion with emotional anecdotes.

Around the same time, numerous students at both Dartmouth and Brown expressed support for Cuevas over social media, using the hashtag “#IStandWithGeo.”

“I again want to express my disappointment at the fact that [College President Phil] Hanlon did not attend that meeting,” Cuevas said. “He did not make an effort to reproduce the environment that was created at Brown with their forum.”

However, Hanlon, along with several other top-level administrators at the College, separately met with delegates from the conference.

Cuevas also expressed outrage at the wording of Tuesday’s email from Brown executive vice president Carey. He said it misrepresented several key aspects of the altercation, including its chronology and the officer’s attitude.

The email, for example, indicates that the officer was originally trying to assist a drunk student — a fact that Cuevas contests as patently false.

“Sometimes, with these situations, justice is not done, because authorities think they can do an improper thing and get away with it.” Nunez said. “But at the conference, we all got together and showed the administration what students can do when they get together. And at the end, justice was served.”

The investigation of the incident was conducted by DPS and supervised by Mark Porter, chief of police and director of the department. On Jan. 18, members of the Brown University Security Patrolpersons’ Association voted “no confidence” in both Porter and deputy chief of police Paul Shanley.

In the email, Carey commended both Porter and Shanley for “performing at a high level of excellence.” He also wrote that Porter was conducting a review of the training of officers regarding diversity and inclusion.

Brian Clark, director of news and editorial development, declined to comment because the issue related to an individual employee. He noted that university statement contained all of the information they can publicly share.

The College's Safety and Security has not responded to a request for comment.

Updated (March 14, 2016):

This article has been updated to include interviews with Geovanni Cuevas ’14 and Rafael Nunez ’18.