Two Police Officers Suspended for Recycling 300 Copies of ‘The Tech’

The MIT Police have been hit hard by the arrest of one of their own, officer Joseph D’Amelio, who was apprehended on Saturday in East Boston with more than 800 tablets containing oxycodone, and $16,000 in cash. D’Amelio has been charged with drug trafficking and is in jail on $500,000 bail.

MIT is forming a panel to review D’Amelio’s activities and their implications.

Separately, two MIT Police officers were suspended Wednesday after admitting that they cleared 300 Tech issues off the stands in the student center and put them in paper recycling late Tuesday night.

Tuesday’s Tech prominently featured an article and photograph about D’Amelio’s arrest. The Tech received a tip late Tuesday night that police officers had removed copies of The Tech from stands in the Student Center.

The 300 newspapers were found in a recycling bin outside. Another 100 papers were found in a recycling bin at the east end of the Infinite Corridor. The Tech filed a police report.

On Wednesday, the two officers came forward through the Campus Police Association, their union, according to both Campus Police Chief John DiFava and union president Joseph S. West.

DiFava said the officers were placed on administrative leave without pay. The police department is “looking into the entire incident, photographs, interviews,” DiFava said.

DiFava expects the investigation to complete within days, not weeks.

Members of the MIT Police are under a lot of stress right now, West said, referring to the arrest of D’Amelio.

“It’s a very dark time in the MIT Police history,” said Brian J. Sousa, the union’s shop steward. “It’s affecting a lot of people personally,” he said.

As police officers, any questionable incidents put their reputation at risk, and this incident is no exception.

“We do take a lot of heat,” West said. “We want to apologize for the unfortunate incident that took place,” West said. “As a union, we’ve never experienced an incident like this.”

In a joint statement, DiFava and Kirk D. Kolenbrander, vice president for institute affairs, said “This is a very serious matter. Openness of communication is of fundamental importance at MIT. Free and open distribution of The Tech is very much within that value, and has to be treated with the highest seriousness and sensitivity.”

“I can’t emphasize how seriously we take this,” DiFava said. “This was incredibly egregious,” referring to the newspaper theft.

Police union officials said that the two suspended officers made a mistake, but should be allowed to return to work.

“They’re both great guys,” said David Smith, vice president of the union. “We don’t believe they deserve to be fired,” he said.

West said both officers have “unbelievable track records,” and that both have been with the MIT Police for over ten years, and have families to support.

“All we can do is apologize,” West said. “We’re going to work harder to make the trust come back from the students, the faculty, and the staff,” he said.

Students seem forgiving

Students seem to think that the theft incident didn’t deserve major punishment.

Daniel D. Hawkins ’12 said that this “only fuels the distrust that the MIT community feels for the Police,” but that “suspension without pay for a while would be an appropriate punishment.”

Manuel Cabral ’12 said that “relations are pretty strained. It would be nice if we could get along better. We can work things out. Giving them a second chance would be better than saying ‘you can’t have your job.’”

Police review panel will form

In response to D’Amelio’s arrest, MIT is forming a review panel to “investigate the arrest and its ramifications,” according to a statement released Thursday by Executive Vice President Theresa M. Stone SM ’76.

The panel will consist of “experienced, respected, objective individuals,” and will report to President Susan J. Hockfield and Provost Rafael L. Reif. “Ensuring the safety of MIT’s students, faculty, and staff is MIT’s paramount concern,” the statement said.

The panel will not include students, Kolenbrander said.