Message from Chancellor Sartarelli re. University Police/Faculty Member Interaction

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Statement from UNCW:

The University's police department was contacted by an employee at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28. The caller expressed concern that a man was seated on a bench behind Cameron Hall wearing a zipped-up jacket that did not seem congruent with the warm weather conditions. There was no mention of race by the caller until he was asked by the dispatcher to provide routine descriptive information so that the man could be efficiently located by police personnel. A UPD officer was dispatched to the location and upon arrival, there was an interaction of less than 2 minutes between the officer and the man, who self-identified as a faculty member.

During this time, the officer introduced himself and explained that UPD had received a call which obligated their response, regarding the fact that he was wearing a jacket that seemed inappropriate for the warm weather, and there was concern he might be concealing weapons. The officer explained that the easiest way to dispel the concern was for the faculty member to take the jacket off, so the officer could see that there was no weapon present. The faculty member removed the jacket and handed it to the officer, who quickly confirmed there was no weapon and placed the jacket on the bench.

The officer emphatically indicated, when asked by the faculty member if he was questioning him based on his ethnicity, that this was not the case, and again stated that he was obligated to respond to the call of concern. The interaction did not include any physical contact or "frisking," nor a request for the man to identify himself or his purpose for being on campus. During this interaction, the officer indicated repeatedly that he did not believe the faculty member had done anything wrong, and apologized for the fact that he was obligated to follow up on the call received by UPD.
The university immediately initiated a review of this exchange yesterday afternoon, and UPD reached out to the faculty member (via telephone and email) for his account of the exchange. This morning UNCW's provost/chief academic officer reached out to the faculty member to express her concern and to encourage him to respond to UPD's outreach to him. The dashcam video has been very closely reviewed to confirm our understanding of the facts of the exchange. We are eager to quickly proceed and finalize our review and will be able to do so upon receiving a response from the faculty member involved. We have taken this accusation of "profiling" very seriously and will review how we can ensure that those approached by UPD will not feel that they are being singled out for their ethnicity, but we also must recognize an obligation to respond to an employee's concern about campus safety.