Court hears motion to dismiss lawsuit over access to Harvard police records

MASSACHUSETTS — A state court heard oral argumentsFeb. 23 involving Harvard University’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filedby the school’s student newspaper seeking access to the Harvard UniversityPolice Department’s records.The Harvard Crimson filed suitlast July after HUPD denied the paper access to police reports. HUPD and theuniversity claim that because Harvard is a private institution, its police forceis not subject to the state open-records law. However, The HarvardCrimson maintains that since HUPD’s officers are either deputized byMiddlesex County or Suffolk County sheriffs, or are sworn special state policeofficers, it is a public agency and should make its records available to thepublic.The Harvard Crimson‘s argument was recentlybolstered by a decision from a state court in Georgia. The court said the policeforce of Mercer University, also a private institution, is subject to thatstate’s open-records law since it is deputized by the state and performspublic functions such as arresting crime suspects and investigating reports ofcrime. ”[The Mercer decision] demonstrates that police departmentson college campuses that operate as true police departments are subject to thesame records rules as those of any other police department. Having another courtin the country come to that realization is very helpful,” said AmberAnderson, The Harvard Crimson‘s attorney. HarvardUniversity spokesman Joe Wrinn declined to comment on the details of thecase.The Harvard Crimson expects Middlesex Superior Court JudgeNancy Staffier to rule in the next two weeks.

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