Black UMass employee says he was racially profiled after police called on him walking to work
© WWLP News

An employee at the University of Massachusetts Amherst says he was racially profiled after someone called the police on him as he walked across campus to his office.

Reginald Andrade, a case manager in the university’s disability services office, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that he was approached in his office by two plainclothes police officers who questioned him.

An anonymous caller had reported Andrade, who has worked at the university for 14 years, to the school's tip line that morning, describing him as a “very agitated” African-American man walking into the campus building with a “large duffel bag ... hanging off a strap, very heavy hanging on the ground.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“How can somebody just walk by me, not even speaking, and try to discern that I was agitated?” Andrade told the Gazette. “This is when it becomes dangerous, when people know how to push the buttons of law enforcement. ... Those were those strong key buzzwords: agitated black man dragging a heavy bag.”

University Police Chief Tyrone Parham told the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, which first reported the story, that police shut down the building for 30 minutes while they searched for the person described in the call.

He said that the reported “behavior” was the primary concern, “not necessarily the description of the person.”

“One of the things we zoned in on with that message, because we listened to it a couple times, was really the behavior,” Parham told the Daily Collegian. “So it’s not necessarily the description of the person, it was really the behaviors that were exhibited, as to the reasons that we thought we needed to confirm this.”

Andrade told the Gazette that he had been racially profiled and reported to campus police twice before — once as a student, and once earlier in his career.

University Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy issued a statement on the incident to students, calling it a “difficult matter” and saying that he hopes the caller was well-intentioned.

“We are living at the intersection of two very trying issues,” Subbaswamy said in the email. “We must all do our part to respond quickly to perceived threats of potential violence on campus, and we must build an inclusive community that respects everyone and rejects profiling.”

Ed Blaguszewski, the university’s strategic communications director, indicated to the Daily Collegian that the university is questioning whether the caller described Andrade in a way to purposefully prompt a police response.

“What’s concerning to us is the particulars of the matter in terms of how it was called in and the specifics of the description and was this in some way developed to try to prompt the police to respond,” Blaguszewski said. “To call the anonymous tip line was very unusual, and just the richness of the detail was very unusual. So that just makes us pause and think, ‘Is there some sort of agenda here for the person calling in?’ ”