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Monday June 27th

'If anything, it leads us in a circle': Activists denounce perceived bias in report

De’Ivyion Drew, a sophomore and member of the Campus Safety Commission, speaks into a megaphone to address a crowd during a press conference hosted by campus activists at the Peace and Justice Plaza on Nov. 6, 2019. "If anything, it leads us in a circle — this circle of police violence, police oppression and the system that is UNC that silences us every single day," Drew says, referencing a report investigating police conduct at the University.
Buy Photos De’Ivyion Drew, a sophomore and member of the Campus Safety Commission, speaks into a megaphone to address a crowd during a press conference hosted by campus activists at the Peace and Justice Plaza on Nov. 6, 2019. "If anything, it leads us in a circle — this circle of police violence, police oppression and the system that is UNC that silences us every single day," Drew says, referencing a report investigating police conduct at the University.

The University released an independent investigative report on Tuesday analyzing police conduct during four incidents during the 2018-2019 academic year. The following day, campus activists held a press conference to discuss what they believe to be flaws in the report’s observations and findings. 

“There are some real problems with this report,” graduate student Calvin Deutschbein said. “And we wanted to make sure we start pushing back against those proactively and immediately.” 

While the report identified "breakdowns in police procedures and practices," it stated that officers did not act with “improper” motivations during any of the incidents listed.

The report, compiled by former Assistant Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Chris Swecker, "endeavored to be objective and free of preconceived opinions."

De’Ivyion Drew, a sophomore and member of the Campus Safety Commission, held a printed and highlighted copy of the Swecker report as she discussed the multiple inaccuracies she said it contained. 

The report had a strong pro-police bias, Drew said, and pointed to how the University has not fostered a safe or inclusive culture for activists and students of color on-campus.

"’I am confident that his review will lead us to a better place,’” Drew said, reading interim Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz’s message that preceded the report in an email to the campus community.

Drew said she didn't think that was the case.

“If anything, it leads us in a circle — this circle of police violence, police oppression and the system that is UNC that silences us every single day," Drew said. "That's what it protects. That's the better place, right?”

The Swecker report insufficiently utilized student eyewitness accounts of the events it investigated, Drew said.

"How can this report be objective and factual if it does not have eyewitness accounts outside of police voluntary support?" she said. 

Prior to the press conference, Drew said she’d asked Campus Safety Commission co-chairperson Frank Baumgartner if the Swecker report would serve as a foundation for the commission’s recommendations to the Chancellor. 

“Frankly, the chair said no,” Drew told the group. “We have to come up with our own conclusions that are stemmed from student reports, from listening sessions and a variety of other tactics that get to the source.”

One of the report’s findings was that an officer provided false testimony in the trial of a student activist arrested during a Sep. 8 protest. 

Gina Balamucki, a law student at UNC working on the case, identified the activist as Julia Pulawski. 

“Though this report is biased in favor of the police, it identifies clear police misconduct,” Balamucki said. “The report affirms what activists have been saying for over a year, that a member of the UNC Police Department, Sergeant Bostelman, lied on the stand in a district court trial that resulted in the unjust conviction of a UNC undergraduate student.”

Balamucki called for the firing of the officer accused of providing false testimony and the dismissal of the case against Pulawski. 

Deutschbein also said that, in describing the arrests made, the report inaccurately identified some students. 

One of the report’s biggest flaws, Drew said, is that it downplays the breakdowns it describes.

“In the nature of the report, they alleviate. They're like 'Oh, it's only a little bit improper, right?'” Drew said. “No, this is incredibly improper and disappointing and honestly, just flabbergasting at this point.”

@hannaherinlang

university@dailytarheel.com

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