Several students in the Northeast have filed charges against a detective with the Boston Police Department, or BPD, alleging misconduct in breaking up student rallies at Mission Hill.
The allegations, according to a complaint filed March 7 by fourth-year civil engineering major Sophia Fagone, include the use of excessive force, lying on police reports and entering residences without probable cause.
The complaints came after an increased police presence at Mission Hill, prompted in part by the Mission Hill Problem Property Task Force, according to member Dave Greenup.
“If you’re going to shut down a party, that’s fine, but there’s a certain way to do it,” said Kamyab Pirouz, a third-year biology student.
Fagone lodged a complaint against the officer through the Office of Police Accountability and Transparency, or OPAC, after hearing about his friends’ interactions with him. The department has since opened an investigation and, Fagone said, has compiled more than 20 student accounts of misconduct implicating him. Many students have agreed to do formal interviews with OPAC, Fagone said.
Aidan Cusack, a third-year business administration major at Phi Delta Theta fraternity, said the officer never explained his probable cause when he allegedly entered Cusack’s home to break up a party in February.
Ethan Ripps, a third-year bioengineering student who is also in a fraternity, said he had a similar experience.
“[The officer] said, ‘I can walk into any house if I think you’re having a party,’ or something like that,” Ripps said.
Pirouz, a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, said the officer wrote on a police report that there were more than 100 people at his home at a party in October. Pirouz said the ability was not physically possible. That same night, when Pirouz asked the officer if he had a warrant, the officer was reportedly “aggressive”.
“Instead of just explaining what his reason was, [he] just threatened to arrest me,” Pirouz said.
Pirouz and at least four other students from his fraternity have been taken to court and threatened with crimes. All have been given a six-month trial period.
Pirouz said fraternity parties have “virtually closed” since November over fears of legal action and what he sees as an overly strict police presence.
The officer has been employed by the BPD for over 25 years and is one of highest paid employees of the city of Boston. Since 2010 he has two previous sustained complaints for neglecting his duty. The officer was also honored for his work – in 2014 he was among the BPD officers who received TOP COPS Award and met former President Barack Obama for his role in arresting the Boston Marathon suicide bombers.
The BPD did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“Before, they knew we were middle schoolers,” Pirouz said. “They wouldn’t charge us and nothing bad would happen.”
On March 5, a video BPD officers using a battering ram to enter a student’s home have drawn attention on Reddit. the police report of the incident said residents refused to let officers in after announcing themselves, but to many the method of entry still seems extreme.
“I guess the probable cause is suspected underage drinking, but I feel like you can use that in any context, so I think that’s not fair to say. ‘use it as a way to just get into someone’s house,’ Pirouz said.
For many long-term residents, however, a tighter police presence isn’t a bad thing.
Mary Ann Nelson has lived in Mission Hill since 1985. She frequently sees beer cans littered on her street and says she has neighbors who can’t sleep because of loud student parties.
“As residents, we’re asking the police to be more aggressive about parties because they really impact the quality of life in the neighborhood,” Nelson said.
Another resident, Greenup, joined the Mission Hill Problematic Properties Task Force in October when his neighbor was reportedly banged by a student after asking for music to be turned down at a party. Since then, Greenup said, he has helped the task force take initiative and “focus” on student rallies.
“I believe the people of Mission Hill are happy that the police are taking extreme measures,” Greenup said. “We call this place home, and we don’t get the respect of some students.”
Greenup particularly expressed frustration with the common assertion that Mission Hill is a student neighborhood. While 37% of residents are between 18 and 24 years old, 35% are also between 35 and 64 years old.
The Mission Hill Problem Property Task Force is made up of longtime residents, city councilors, a BPD liaison, and representatives from nearby universities, including Northeastern. The task force also has a fund that pays for an extra police detachment to patrol the neighborhood on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for noisy student parties.
Although the northeast contributes to that fund, the university has no affiliation with the accused officer, media relations manager Shannon Nargi said in an emailed statement to The News on March 25.
Still, Siddarth Simon, a combined third-year computer engineering and computer science major, called it “disadvantageous” to the university if “they can’t provide a social life.”
“What ultimately needs to happen is a discourse between the Mission Hill community and students in the North East who are renting short-term,” Simon said. “It’s gotten to the point where it’s not really helping the community, it’s definitely not helping us as students.”