posted 2013-02-06 00:00:00

NYPD Involvement Understated by Kroll, Chancellor Exempted for False Statements

Highly anticipated Kroll report into Baruch protest contains major flaws

Background: On Nov. 21, 2011 students and faculty attended a public hearing to voice their concerns about the five-year tuition hike plan. The lobby of the Vertical Campus at Baruch College filled with at least 100 non-violent protesters. Baton-wielding Public Safety officers, with help from the NYPD, forcefully ejected students from the lobby. During the scuffle 15 students were arrested. The Envoy reported extensively on the events and received attention in the CUNY community for pointing out the inaccuracies in Chancellor Matthew Goldstein's official statement of the protest, particularly the chancellor's denial of NYPD participation at Baruch College. CUNY hired Kroll, a third-party risk mitigation firm, to conduct an investigation into the incident and produce a report based on their findings. Members of the Envoy were heavily cited in Kroll's report, however many problems exist with the report's findings and representation of facts.

The Kroll report manages to determine that indeed there were NYPD inside the lobby. However, the discussion about the NYPD involvement -- and the Chancellor Matthew Goldstein's statements concerning the NYPD's participation in the protest dispersal -- is missing key facts and makes some questionable assumptions.

Throughout the discussion of the NYPD, the report states that a small number of officers entered the building on their own volition. The report never strays from this tone -- a reader unacquainted with Nov. 21 would be led to believe that only a small and insignificant number of NYPD officers were in the lobby, responding independently to the events as they perceived them from the sidewalk in front of the building. However, video footage shows that there were at least 25 NYPD officers inside the building and the breadth of their activities far exceeded spontaneity. The Kroll report itself even states that the NYPD had intelligence of the protest prior to Nov. 21 and that the NYPD had warned CUNY in advanced to expect activism at the public hearing.

As a matter of fact, a deputy inspector was present in the lobby along with two of his lieutenants, three sergeants and a squad of rank-and-file police officers and detectives. Two detectives from NYPD's Technical Assistance Response Unit, TARU, were also engaged in video evidence collection, one of them armed with a high-definition video camera. That is, the NYPD had as many video cameras on the ground as CUNY's SAFE Team did.

The NYPD also co-opted the removal of the press from inside the public lobby of Baruch; a lieutenant is caught on film grabbing the lens of an SLR camera while an assistant director from University Public Safety is seen ejecting a credentialed Wall Street Journal reporter, Jessica Firger. Lower-ranking NYPD officers joined the fray of Public Safety officers and personally engaged in the submission of law-abiding students.

Eyewitness testimony and irrefutable photo and video evidence tells us the NYPD were actively involved in crowd control and arrest, evidence collection, and prisoner transfer and retention. Clearly the extent of these activities exceeds the bounds of merely assisting CUNY with pesky crowd control issues.

The Kroll report also fails to blame the chancellor for the controversial statement published under his name the following day of the protest. The chancellor's statement reads, "while there were New York City police officers outside of the college building, CUNY chose to use its own public safety officers inside the building," which evidently proved not to be true -- the Kroll report itself admits this. However, the Kroll report exempts CUNY of all blame for the deliberately misleading statement on the grounds that "it is also clear from Kroll's interviews with the Chancellor, senior CUNY administrators, and Department of Public Safety officers that the full extent of police activities during the Baruch protest was unknown within the University until Kroll began its investigation ... the fact that the statement does not mention NYPD activities inside of the building is simply a reflection of the incomplete state of knowledge that existed at the time." This statement is implausible. The Envoy began its investigation the second the Baruch lobby was cleared and The Envoy furnished photographs of the NYPD to the administration the day after the protest.

University Director of Public Safety William Barry, an ex-FBI special agent whose resume includes work on the TWA Flight 800 case and serving in the Air Force, was seen on video conversing with an NYPD deputy inspector in the Baruch lobby. Clearly a man with Director Barry's impressive FBI background can tell the difference between one of his own Public Safety officers and a high-ranking commander from the NYPD -- and clearly Director Barry can tell when this foreign commander's men are physically engaging students whom Director Barry's job is to protect.

Michael Arena, CUNY's top spokesman, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former investigative journalist, who vehemently recites he "was there" in the lobby -- and who ghostwrote* the Chancellor Goldstein's infamous statement -- can tell when NYPD officers are in the Baruch lobby with video equipment and uniforms with huge block letters reading "NYPD TARU" and are physically assaulting students.

Surely the entire SAFE Team, CUNY's elite police arm, can tell when they are standing side by side with NYPD officers, and when these foreign officers harm the welfare of the university's most valuable asset -- its students and professors and their right to unrestricted political speech.

The excuse that the NYPD's involvement was "unknown" to CUNY is extremely dubious. Is the implication that information was explicitly withheld from the Chancellor's Office? Even if so, the chancellor's ghostwriter admits he was in the lobby during the protest, and video footage confirms it.

There is no way the CUNY administration was unaware of the NYPD's apparent act of philanthropy -- unless highly qualified men with federal law enforcement and Pulitzer Prize winning backgrounds, along with all the men bellow them, simultaneously failed to realize when the police walked in through the front door, battered and arrested and filmed the university's students, and then left.

*Page 45 of the Kroll report reads, "on November 22, 2011, the Emergency Management Committee met and viewed the CUNY video ... Sgt. Henriquez noted that Arena, after discussion with the Committee, prepared a written statement for release to the public."

Read more Kroll Report analysis: The Myth of the Broken Windows

The Envoy's original Baruch coverage: Unexpected Clash Occurs at Baruch Public Hearing

Our in-depth video analysis: NYPD Highly Involved in Baruch Protest

Download your copy of the Kroll report here: CUNY Kroll Report