UMass Amherst Retains Former Boston Police Commissioner Davis to Review Preparedness, Response to Crowd-Related Disturbances

Ed Davis

AMHERST, Mass. ­– The University of Massachusetts Amherst has retained the services of former Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis to conduct a comprehensive review of the university and the town’s handling of the so-called Blarney Blowout and other large, crowd-related disturbances. The move by UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy comes after extensive consultation with UMass President Robert Caret and Board of Trustees Chair Henry Thomas.

“Commissioner Davis is an outstanding choice for this assignment,” Subbaswamy said. “He is regarded as one of the country’s top law enforcement experts and he will draw upon his longtime success in community policing to help us prevent a recurrence of last week’s disturbing events. This initiative has the support of our community partners in Amherst town government, a cooperative approach vital to solving this difficult problem.”

The review will encompass campus and community preparation leading up to the event as well as the conduct of first responders, university officials and town leaders during and immediately following the disturbance. The aim of the review will be to develop strategies and tactics to avert the sort of upheaval that occurred over the past weekend.

Davis said, “We will look at everything to recommend best practices that can be adopted to ensure public safety in way that does not result in civil unrest. I am confident that both the town and the university community will benefit from this review.”

Davis led the Boston Police Department through the marathon bombing investigation and successful manhunt in April 2013. He has 36 years of law enforcement experience, including his tenure as Boston police commissioner from 2006-13. During that time, serious crime declined by more than 30 percent. He is currently a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a private security analyst who heads Dynamic Ideas Security. Included in Davis’ four-member team that will conduct the review is Mark Delaney, retired colonel and former head of the Massachusetts State Police.

Subbaswamy also announced a number of other initiatives to evaluate campus life and deter unruly student behavior. They include:

·      Working with leaders in student government to develop a task force of students, faculty and staff to develop policies and practices to discourage unruly behavior and change the culture of campus.

·      Consulting experts in the psychology of crowd behavior to develop improved crowd management strategies.

·      Examine expanding the UMatter at UMass bystander intervention program to also discourage bad behavior by others at large social gatherings.

·      Consider broadening the campus social norms campaign, largely focused on binge drinking, to address perceptions of other troublesome behavior.

The chancellor noted that the process for disciplining students involved in unruly Blarney Blowout behavior is under way. “We will take appropriate disciplinary action against those who violated our Code of Student Conduct.”

Subbaswamy also observed, “It is important to remember that we currently have the best academically prepared and most accomplished students in our history, and that the overwhelming majority of them find ways to enjoy their UMass Amherst experience responsibly. It is also worth noting that the majority of those arrested were not our students.” 

Commissioner Davis will present his report to Chancellor Subbaswamy with copies going to President Caret and Chairman Thomas.

Caret said, “I want to commend Chancellor Subbaswamy for his decision to initiate a comprehensive review of the troubling events we saw in Amherst this past weekend. UMass Amherst is a great public research university and its greatness derives from the students, faculty and staff who dedicate themselves to pursuit of knowledge and to creating a better future for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the world. Those who truly know UMass Amherst are thus all the more disheartened when disruptive events occur and threaten to obscure the quality and accomplishments of this outstanding campus. Additionally, we need to look for answers any time public order and public safety appear to be at stake and who better to lead this effort than former Commissioner Davis, who provided answers, perspective, reassurance, progress and safety during the harrowing days of the Marathon tragedy. I am very pleased that Chancellor Subbaswamy has decided to launch this timely and important review and look forward to supporting him in this vital effort.”

Thomas said, “On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to express my appreciation and admiration for the step that Chancellor Subbaswamy is taking. Bringing Commissioner Davis in to undertake a wide-ranging review is the right step at the right time. It augers well for those of us who want UMass Amherst to realize its full potential — and to be appreciated for what it is and what it will be.”