After a caller reported him for walking to work, a black employee at the University of Massachusetts was questioned by police
Reg Andrade is a 14-year employee who works as a case manager in the university’s disability services office, reported The Daily Hampshire Gazette.
The caller reported Andrade on an anonymous tip line just before 8 a.m. Friday, saying a “very agitated” African-American man walked into the Whitmore Administration Building with a “large duffel bag … hanging off a strap, very heavy hanging on the ground.” The caller also gave a description of his clothing.
Officers shut down the building for about 45 minutes to search for Andrade, and 2 plainclothes officers questioned him about his activities the night before, when he arrived at campus, and whether or not he was upset.
Andrade sees this as another case of being racially profiled at the campus.
“How can somebody just walk by me, not even speaking, and try to discern that I was agitated?” Andrade said. “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,” he added.
Tyrone Parham, chief of university police, claims police response was related to behavior, not race.
“One of the things we zoned in on with that message, because we listened to it a couple times, was really the behavior,” Parham said. “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 felt the police response was inappropriate after the call profiling him for being black.
“I’m starting to think these two might have guns, these two men might have weapons on them, (and) here I am feeling extremely vulnerable, not comfortable in my own office,” Andrade said. “Where is this going, am I going to get charged with a crime? Are they going to arrest me in front of my co-workers? Handcuff me?”
He noted 2 other times he was profiled on campus and had police called on him for doing nothing wrong.
Someone called police on him when he was a student for sitting in an empty classroom and listening to an audio book, and someone later called police on him while working at a new student orientation.
“I always have to have my ID card on me, always, no matter where I go,” Andrade said.
“Each time it gets deeper and deeper and more intense,” he added. “And psychologically, emotionally and physically, it’s just draining.”