Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1996-1997 index

Distributed April 24, 1997
Contact: Tracie Sweeney

No excessive use of force

Internal review concludes use of spray against student was appropriate

An internal review conducted by Police & Security Services finds that campus police use of pepper spray against an unruly student on Feb. 8 was justified. The student pleaded no contest to two charges and will file no complaint against officers.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- An internal review conducted by Brown University's Department of Police and Security Services has concluded that a campus police officer's use of pepper spray against an undergraduate during an incident on Feb. 8, 1997, was appropriate and did not constitute excessive force.

Departmental procedure calls for an internal investigation whenever a campus police officer uses force, including the use of pepper spray. Capt. Richard Ziccardi conducted the review; Col. Paul Verrecchia, chief of Police and Security, also reviewed the incident and concurred with the report's findings.

The pepper spray was used on an undergraduate the evening of Feb. 8 after campus police officers closed a party that had exceed the party site's occupancy limit. The student, who had attended the party, became unruly, according to the review, and refused to identify himself to officers. While escorting the student from the party site, the student grabbed an officer and a struggle ensued. A second officer used pepper spray after repeated warnings.

The student was taken to Providence Police headquarters and charged with simple assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. On March 10, as part of a plea bargain agreement, the student pleaded no contest in district court to resisting arrest and disorderly conduct; the simple assault charge was dismissed. The charges were filed for one year, and will be erased if there are no additional violations during that time. The student also voluntarily filed a statement with Police and Security saying that he would neither file a complaint nor press any charges against University officers.

Throughout the incident and investigation, Verrecchia said he was concerned by students' reluctance to come forward, either as complainants or witnesses, in matters involving a question of the use of force. As a partial solution, Verrecchia has distributed complaint forms to the Office of Student Life and the members of the Campus Community Police and Security Committee. Most students and staff members he had spoken with had requested anonymity in their complaints, Verrecchia said. "I can make no such guarantee. However, I have reiterated and continue to reiterate that neither I, Captain Ziccardi, nor any of the sergeants will tolerate any retributive acts on the part of any member of this department."

He added that every incident involving the use of force by a member of the department will be reviewed, as will officers' training, "to ensure that officers are kept up to date with modern trends and techniques of sound law enforcement practices."