Two University Of Chicago Police Employees Put On Leave After Infiltrating Protest

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 6, 2013 8:40PM

2013_3_6_ucpd.jpg On Monday, two employees with the University of Chicago Police were put on administrative leave after a Chicago Maroon investigation revealed that an on-duty officer posed as an activist at a protest at the university’s medical center. Jeremy Manier, a spokesperson for the university told the Chicago Maroon, “University leaders were not aware that a UCPD officer would pose as a protester. University leaders said the Maroon's story was the first that they had heard of the issue.The first that University leaders learned of this issue was from the Maroon story.”

Anonymous photos submitted to the paper show that Detective Janelle Marcellis of the UCPD attended the rally, which was a response to arrests made at a sit-in at the University of Chicago hospital. Demonstrators at the rally were protesting the UCPD’s violent treatment and arrest of activists who were demanding the trauma center at the hospital extend the age limit from 15 to 21. According to organizers, the detective did not inform anyone she was with the UCPD. At the rally, Marcellis attempted to blend in by holding a sign reading “$700,000,000 Seriously???” as well as placing a sticker over her mouth which read “Trauma center now.”

Alex Goldenberg, an organizer with Fearless Leading by the Youth said the detective “didn’t look comfortable with herself,” which is what could have led others to believe she may have been undercover. Goldenberg also said that while demonstrators were outside University President Robert Zimmer’s home, the detective questioned other demonstrators “in a way that a person going to an event [such as this] wouldn’t ask” and that she had asked if demonstrating outside the president’s house was “all we were doing.”

University Provost Thomas Rosenbaum along with President Zimmer emailed a statement saying:

“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. 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.”

Organizers of the actions surrounding the trauma center maintain they’ve informed police and administration of their plans before demonstrations, as well as march routes. In a statement, Students for Health Equity expressed concern over the larger contextual issue of the UCPD using a police informant at a peaceful demonstration. "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,” the statement read.

Whether or not University of Chicago administration had a hand in deploying the officer at the demonstration remains to be seen, and even if Rosenbaum and Zimmer had no knowledge of the tactics used by UCPD, the situation is still trouble for civil liberties. Well documented evidence shows Chicago Police used officers posing as demonstrators, the Department of Homeland Security’s interest in infiltrating protest movements, and plenty of other law enforcement agencies attempting to shut down all forms of activism. As Marcellis was part of UCPD’s Investigative Services Bureau, which is “responsible for identifying emerging crime patterns, proactively combating crime and for follow up investigations of crimes which occur,” it seems like the UCPD believes, much like many other law enforcement agencies, that protest is a crime.