Police Union Pushes Back over Claims About University of Connecticut Protesters

UConn Division of University Safety
by Christian Wade


The union representing University of Connecticut police is pushing back on claims officers injured pro-Palestinian protesters when they broke up an encampment last month and arrested more than two dozen people.

The Connecticut Police & Fire Union, which represents UConn police, said the claims about the April 30 encounter made by another union in a letter to school leaders was an “unconscionable attack” on the officers who were just “doing their jobs” by shutting down the “unauthorized” encampment on school grounds.

“We are deeply saddened that many key facts are missing from this letter, and our members of the UConn Police Department are being unfairly targeted for doing their jobs,” union President Kevin C. Saunders said in a statement.

The terse statement comes in response to a letter sent to UConn President Radenka Maric by members of the American Association of University Professors and the UConn Graduate Employee & Postdoc Union, saying they “condemn” the university’s decision to call the police to take down the encampment.

In the letter, the professors’ union called for all of the charges to be dropped against students who were arrested, and blasted police for being heavy-handed with protesters, some of whom they said were injured during the incident.

“It is the responsibility of the labor movement to be first-line defenders of civil liberties, and we stand in solidarity with students and demand that the University of Connecticut honor their right to assemble and exercise free speech,” the professors’ union wrote. “There was no threat of violence and no plan to disrupt classes or exams.”

But the police union pushed back on those claims, and called on the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition – an umbrella group that includes the professor’s union – to “step up and defend” police officers and “return to its core founding principles” by focusing on workers’ wages, benefits and retirement options.

“The continued desire of some SEBAC membership organizations to branch out into other areas of social justice and public protest should be taken up on their accord, without SEBAC dues money, and without any connection to SEBAC in any fashion,” the police union wrote. “We call on SEBAC to issue a statement demonstrating their support of the police officers they represent.”

The UConn demonstrations are part of a wave of anti-Israel protests that have swept U.S. college campuses in response to Israel’s war with Hamas, which was prompted by the Oct. 7 attack that killed 1,200 Israelis and injured many others. Hamas also took hostages, including Americans, many of whom are still in captivity.

In a letter published in the university newspaper, Maric and other UConn leaders said the administration “unequivocally supports the rights of our students and community at large to express themselves through speech and peaceful assembly, as well as through the bedrock right of academic freedom” but that some students had refused to leave the “unauthorized” encampment after repeated warnings.

“We need to keep in mind that there are countless ways for students, faculty, staff, and others in our community to exercise their constitutional right to free speech that do not violate university policy or practice,” they wrote.

The police union said claims about the mistreatment of protestors was an “unacceptable and unnecessary” attack on them that feeds into the “anti-police movement” across the country.

“Police officers around this country report to work daily with a willingness to place themselves second to the citizens they serve,” they wrote. “The continued anti-police movement continues to result in low department morale, heavy officer employment turnover and a decrease in public servants filling the ranks, not only at UConn, but many other police agencies in Connecticut and across the country.”

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Christian Wade is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Police Officer” by UConn Division of University Safety.





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