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In Response To Controversial Police Call Last Summer, Smith College Sets New Policies

Published
Smith College has announced new policies for campus police and staff. This follows an incident last summer when an employee called the police on a black student eating her lunch in a campus building.

Investigators hired by Smith previously said they found no evidence of racial bias by the employee who called police on student Oumou Kanoute. But the school said the policy changes announced Wednesday are in response to what happened.

Employees will now be asked to respectfully talk with people they believe are behaving suspiciously — before informing police.

"So that's really — it's a common sense measure," said ACLU attorney Carl Takei, who represents Kanoute and helped push for the policies. "If that policy and guidance had been in place at the time of the July 31st incident, it's likely that the campus employee would never have even called the police in the first place."

Another change: dispatchers should get more information from callers about the actions of the person they find suspicious.

"The dispatcher for the campus police had actually been instructed to ask fewer questions, not more questions, when they were taking calls about a suspicious person," Takei said. "The new policy actually reverses that."

The changes will also affect nearby Mount Holyoke College, which shares a campus police force with Smith.

This report comes from the New England News Collaborative: Eight public media companies, including The Public's Radio, coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.