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Harvard Slow to Act on Police Brutality of Black Student

Harvard University has failed to complete an examination of school policies after members of the Cambridge Police Department beat a Black student.


In April, Cambridge police were recorded brutally attacking 21-year-old Selorm Ohene. The former university President Drew G. Faust formed a committee to investigate the arrest of Ohene, with urgency.

The committee was supposed to complete and deliver recommendations on school policies by the start of the fall semester last week, but that has not happened, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Five months after the incident, it has yet to be properly addressed.

The Harvard Black Law Students Association wrote a memo explaining what happened to Ohene on April 13:

“A naked, unarmed Black man stood still on the median at the center of Massachusetts Avenue across from Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church. He was surrounded by at least four CPD officers who, without provocation, lunged at him, tackled him and pinned him to the ground.

“While on the ground, at least one officer repeatedly punched the student in his torso as he screamed for help. The officers held him to the ground until paramedics arrived, placed him on a stretcher, and put him in the ambulance.

“A pool of blood remained on the pavement as the ambulance departed. Shortly thereafter, firefighters came and cleaned up the blood with bleach and water.

“This victim of police violence happened to be a Harvard student.

“The University has ample resources that could have, and should have, been mobilized to come to the student’s aid prior to CPD getting involved.”

The seven-minute video shows officers holding down Ohene as they strike him repeatedly.

The Cambridge Police Department claimed Ohene was likely under the influence of narcotics, and had clenched his fists and began making aggressive movements towards them, so they tackled him.

The department has not determined when its internal probe into the conduct of officers involved will be completed.

However, Roderick L. Ireland, the first African American Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, is conducting an “independent review” of the police department’s internal review.

“As a student, I am concerned with the inability of Harvard’s committee and administration, both past and present, to keep its word and ensure that students on this campus feel safe and heard,” student Hilda M. Jordan said, in a statement to The Harvard Crimson.

The Harvard committee said, on Thursday, it needs to conduct more focus groups on the incident before making suggestions to current president Lawrence S. Bacow.

Law School professor Annette Gordon-Reed, the committee chair, wrote in a letter to Bacow that the group isn’t yet ready to conclude its work, and is aiming to do so by later this fall.

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