UVa police officer who taunted students about election results resigns

Posted at 2:09 PM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 14:09:45-05

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.A University of Virginia police officer resigned following comments made over the PA system to students the morning after the Nov. 8 election, in support of President-elect Donald Trump.

Three officers were originally placed on administrative paid leave following the incident, but the UVa Police Department (UPD) said their investigation revealed that only one officer used the PA system.

A couple of students walking to their dorms “were unhappy about the direction the elections had taken,” according to a report by the Daily Progress, and that’s when the officer began “taunting” students by chanting “Make America Great Again.”

The UPD said that the officer took responsibility for his actions and resigned. UVa officials, according to affiliate Newsplex, declined to comment if the other two officers had returned to work, calling it a personnel matter.

“We expect officers of the University of Virginia Police Department to exhibit empathy and concern for community members, treating all with due dignity and respect,” UVA Executive Vice President and COO Patrick D. Hogan and Police Chief Michael A. Gibson wrote in a statement.”UPD remains committed to the highest professional standards in law enforcement and will work tirelessly to enhance the safety of our living and learning environment.”

The comments came at a time when reports of verbal attacks and acts of aggression where being reported around the nation, and the police officer’s action sparked outrage in the UVa community.

Students took their concerns to a Board of Visitors meeting at the Rotunda, and demanded the school administration take action to protect students and workers from proposed legislation by Trump.

President Teresa Sullivan distributed a letter intended to assuage student concerns and pledge commitment to a safe environment.

The letter from Sullivan is below:

I realize that this has been an emotional week for our University community, with anger, fear, and other emotions brought forth at least in part by the outcome of the election. Some members of our community have been the targets of inappropriate and even hostile insults. These acts of aggression have been directed at our faculty, staff, and students. Similar incidents have been occurring on college campuses and in other settings across the nation, and this sort of behavior is alarming wherever it occurs.

Some of the incidents at UVA have been verbal attacks related to the political beliefs, gender, or sexual orientation of a person or group of persons. These incidents may fall short of breaking the law, but they are troubling in a community in which we expect that every member will be treated with civility and respect. I hope that all of you join me in denouncing this behavior, and I encourage our faculty members to reinforce in your classrooms that this behavior is repugnant and that we condemn it.  Our shared values of inclusion, respect, and civility demand that we do so.

In addition to these verbal insults, we have received reports of incidents in which persons have threatened physical violence against individuals. We take these threats extremely seriously, and we are working closely with UVA Police Chief Mike Gibson to assess them and to respond appropriately. I encourage every member of our community to use the Just Report It system to report such incidents if you witness them. In this community of trust, we rely on our students to be active bystanders and to stand up for your classmates, regardless of their backgrounds or beliefs. As faculty and staff, we will stand with you.

As we approach the end of a difficult week, I encourage members of our University community to rely on each other as sources of support and encouragement. Our shared values and our commitment to decency and civility give us strength and resilience when we need it most.

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