University of Chicago Cop Suspended for Spying on Trauma Protest

By Sam Cholke on March 5, 2013 12:02pm 

 Alex Goldenberg (left) an organizer for Fearless Leadership by the Youth, was one of many monitored by an unsanctioned undercover action by University of Chicago police at a Feb. 23 protest for expanded trauma care services on the South Side.
Alex Goldenberg (left) an organizer for Fearless Leadership by the Youth, was one of many monitored by an unsanctioned undercover action by University of Chicago police at a Feb. 23 protest for expanded trauma care services on the South Side.
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DNAInfo/Sam Cholke

HYDE PARK —  The decision by University of Chicago police to secretly infiltrate a campus protest last month was "deeply problematic," campus officials said.

A university detective posed as a protester at a Feb. 23 demonstration calling for expanded trauma care services at the university's hospital.

“We view this action as totally antithetical to our values, and such activity, which is deeply problematic for discourse and mutual respect on campus, cannot be tolerated," university President Robert Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum said in a joint letter to the campus community. "We will appoint an external independent reviewer to investigate the precise facts of this incident, as part of taking action to ensure that such behavior does not happen again.”

University of Chicago Police placed two officers on administrative leave after the campus newspaper, The Maroon, identified Detective Janelle Marcellis posing as a protestor during an action by Fearless Leadership by the Youth and Students for Health Equity.

In photos of the event, Marcellis is seen in a hooded sweatshirt and leather jacket texting Deputy Chief of Investigative Services Milton Owens on a Blackberry about the protest.

Protesters met with University of Chicago Police prior to the event to outline a plan for the march.

“The event plan created and implemented by UCPD did not approve of any officer actively participating in the protest. That will be one focus of an internal investigation undertaken by the UCPD,” said Chief of Police Marlon Lynch in a prepared statement.

It was unclear what the nature or the timeline of the internal review would be. A panel of faculty, lawyers and community members reviews all complaints against university police. Members of the board were not immediately available for comment.

The university administration was reportedly unaware of the actions being taken by police during the protest.

The groups organizing the action called on the university to take comprehensive measures to reign in university police.

“We are concerned that a few officers will be scapegoated and that the administration will not take responsibility for the implicit go-ahead they’ve given for these kinds of tactics,” Students for Health Equity said in a statement. “The police spy was deployed in the context of university disregard for community and student concerns, and for that reason is unsurprising.”

Students and residents have protested the lack of a trauma center on the South Side since 2010, but recent actions have gained new attention from the public and university administration after the arrest of four protestors at the new Center for Care and Discovery on Jan. 27. On March 1, a judge sentenced the four protestors to court supervision. One sentence was only for a day.

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