Paper sues Harvard police

MASSACHUSETTS — Harvard University’s student newspaper filed suit against the school in July after it was  denied access to campus police reports. 

The Harvard Crimson claimed that because Harvard police officers have official law enforcement authority including the power to arrest people off campus, they should be bound by the Massachusetts Public Records Law.

The Crimson requested incident reports in June from the Harvard University Police Department regarding specific incidents, including an alleged embezzlement by two Harvard students. The school provides a public police log as required by another state law provision. 

Both the Cambridge police and the Boston police provided several documents  to the Crimson for the same incidents, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, Harvard police officers rejected the request because they said the department is not a public entity. 

Private universities are generally not bound by state open-records laws. The newspaper argued, however, the campus police must comply because officers “possess policing powers unique to public law enforcement agencies.” 

Several officers are sworn in as special state police officers and possess deputy sheriff powers in Middlesex and Suffolk counties.

Amit Paley, Crimson president, said Harvard police repeatedly denied record requests in the past three years.

“We realized that to fully inform the community of what’s going on, in terms of crime and in terms of what our police officers in our community are doing, we need to have access to these records,” Paley said. “We can’t do our job fully.”

In a statement, Harvard officials said their “procedures are sound and proper and in full compliance with the law.”