The ACLU of Massachusetts today filed a public records request on behalf of Reginald Andrade, a University of Massachusetts Amherst employee who was racially profiled and anonymously reported to police while walking to work. The public records request, the first step in the ACLU’s representation of Andrade, asks for the recording and transcript of the anonymous telephone call made to the University of Massachusetts Police tip line.
On September 14, an anonymous caller flagged Andrade, a longtime University of Massachusetts Amherst employee and alumnus, as an “agitated Black male” on school property. Andrade was walking to his office after his routine morning workout at the campus recreation center. Shortly after campus police received the anonymous call, the University of Massachusetts Police Department locked down Whitmore Administration Building, where Andrade works, and blocked people from entering and exiting the building. He returned to his office where two plainclothes detectives asked to speak with him.
"The surveillance and policing of my behavior has taken a toll on my mental health," said Andrade. "I feel paranoid and unsafe on a campus that claims to be inclusive. It feels like any move I make, no matter how ordinary, can trigger a stressful encounter with the cops."
In addition to details about the call, the public records request asks for protocols for the University of Massachusetts Police Department response to 911 calls and anonymous tip line calls, and any ongoing efforts to identify or locate the caller. The request also calls for documents reflecting present plans of University of Massachusetts Amherst to respond to this and other recent racial profiling incidents on the campus, as well as various documents, procedures, and protocols related to the anonymous tip line.
In response to the alarming cases of racial profiling on college campuses, including college staff calling police on a Black Smith College student for sitting on a sofa on campus, and two Native American teens being removed from a tour of Colorado State University by police, the ACLU has launched a full-scale Living While Black on Campus campaign. The campaign is geared towards campuses that operate their own police and security forces, providing model policies for administrators and toolkits and resources for students who wish to lobby for change.
"We have seen it again and again: someone calls the police because a Black or brown person looks 'out of place,'" said Rahsaan Hall, Director of the Racial Justice Program at the ACLU of Massachusetts. "Police departments have choices about how to react to biased calls. Too often, they act as instruments for the biased callers. As a first step in helping colleges and universities adopt better policies and training to address these calls when they come in, we hope to learn more information about this particular anonymous call and the subsequent University of Massachusetts Police involvement."
Under Massachusetts law, the University has 10 days to respond after receiving the public records request.
The September 14 incident is part of a troubling history of racial profiling at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Andrade was targeted by racist police calls twice before on campus, once in the 1980s when he was a student and again about four years ago as an employee leaving a weekend event.