Friday, April 18, 2008

Chronicle’s DUPD edit & citizen journalism

The Chronicle’s just completed a three-part series: A Look Inside DUPD. You can read the three stories here, here and here. They’re must reading for anyone at Duke or in Durham concerned with public safety on and off campus.

The series reporter, Rob Copeland, its contributor, Chelsea Allison, and the editors who worked the series have done an outstanding job digging out documentary evidence, conducting interviews and producing three well-written reports that paint a picture of an understaffed DUPD which, as a Chronicle editorial puts it today, is “undergoing …extreme turmoil and turnover.”

In this post I want to provide key portions of the editorial and then portions of comments on the edit’s thread. The editorial deserves our attention ; the comments, in the best tradition of citizen journalism, “extend the discussion” and further inform the reader.

From The Chronicle’s editorial:

After a semester in which two local university students were murdered, it is all the more unnerving that Duke University Police Department is undergoing such extreme turmoil and turnover. More than ever, DUPD needs effective leadership-and attrition rates suggest it has nothing of the sort.

This board has criticized DUPD in the past but has generally recognized that the organization, though flawed, is functional. Under the leadership of Associate Vice President for Campus Safety and Security Aaron Graves and Maj. Gloria Graham, we cannot be sure of that-or of our security-anymore. (emphasis mine)

Graves was hired in January 2006 for the new position. He hired Graham, his colleague at the University of Southern California, to be operations commander in July 2007, though because she lacked police officer certification she did not begin work until this January.

That more than one-third of the DUPD force has left since their arrival can hardly be coincidence, especially in light of wrongful termination lawsuits brought against Graham and Graves at USC.

The suits allege abusive treatment of employees and racial discrimination, two issues former DUPD officers have raised. These concerns, along with the reported "my way or the highway" attitude of Graves and Graham, have lowered morale within the department and resulted in the loss of experienced officers. Some officers have even retired early rather than risk a poor performance report that could lower their pensions.

Though on paper Graves may have looked like a suitable candidate, it's disappointing that the University dismissed these lawsuits so cavalierly and did not speak to his colleagues at USC directly during the search. Now, more than two years later, we are seeing the results.

The administration is aware of the problems under Graves and Graham, and we approve of their hiring Sibson Consulting to analyze the situation.

The University must actively recruit seasoned veterans to replace those lost, but more importantly it needs to ensure there's someone qualified at the top. If that's not Graves, we see no reason to keep him around.

[DUPD’s] smaller, younger work force may lack knowledge about and familiarity with Duke that is essential to making them Duke's Finest. Although the effect on crime is yet unknown, the loss of experienced officers will certainly be a problem for DUPD in future. …

As students, we take for granted that DUPD has the capacity to strengthen and expand patrols when crime increases. Our confidence now seems misguided.

The entire editorial is here.

Now below are the citizen journalists' comments in italics. The first comment here is not first on the editorial thread, but I’m placing it first here because many of us have never heard of Sibson Consulting. But take a look at what a “puzzled” citizen journalist, having done his or her own digging, provides us by way of additional information and extending the discussion concerning Duke's decision to hire Sibson Consulting.

I am puzzled by Duke's hiring of Sibson Consulting.

-- I have reviewed the Sibson website and find NOTHING that would suggest qualification for this mission.

-- I have talked this morning with two high level human resource professionals who are familiar with the company. They provided no clue either.

The lack of qualification is readily apparent if you read Sibson's quarterly magazine, and I have just reviewed back copies for three years. The entire focus is on subjects such as employee stock options, cheating retirees out of health coverage, higher executive compensation, how to cope with shareholders and the media pissed at excessive executive salaries. One article I liked was entitled "Are Management Mandates Wasting Your (Employees) Time."

Are we victims of Sibson's recently enlarged Raleigh office and the aaggressive need for business to spread the larger overhead? What expertise does Sibson ofer, precisely, that bears upon the problems in Duke Police?

Who hired Sibson? Was it Executive Vice President Trask, who bears direct responsibility for the mess in Duke Police? This sounds to me like a move to duck responsibility.

Who hired Graves? Trask bears direct responsibility. Did he consider the situation at USC? When were the lawsuits against USC/Graves filed?

Should due diligence have disclosed this problem before Duke imported it?

The problem goes well beyond Graves and his hiring of a police commander.


Both the University and The Chronicle should promptly respond to the important, information seeking question the comment/citizen journalist asks.

I’ll end with a sampling from other commenters/citizen journalists:

It is heartening that the Duke Chronicle is finally looking into problems within the DUPD associated with Aaron Graves mismanagement of his responsibilities.

What is amazing, however, is the [Chronicle’s] continued willingness to turn a blind eye to the allegations of gross abuse of his office presented in the Duke lacrosse case.

Is there no one at the Chronicle who wants to get to the bottom of the allegation that DUPD officers, including particularly Officer Day, were told to amend their reports from March 14, 2006 to avoid contradicting the version of events being spun by Mike Nifong?

Who authorized release of the Duke students confidential FERPA information to the Durham PD, and then attempted to cover-up the fact?

Who hacked into the Duke students private email accounts?

Who sent out false emails from a Duke student's address?

Who authorized providing Durham PD with access into Duke dorms, without warrants, to search rooms and confront students without counsel present?

Who was present at the high-level meetings with Durham officials in which the Durham PD was instructed to "indict someone, any three lacrosse players would do" to quell the threat of mob violence in response to Nifong's inflammatory public accusations?

Just as the case against the Duke students required new, honest leadership, in the form of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, in replacement of the corrupt Mike Nifong, to reveal the truth, so will Duke University need new, honest leadership, to get to the bottom of the DUPD's role in this travesty of injustice.

duke is has lost the meaning for morality, for charity, for accountability, and now for safety...and still NO ONE IS ACCOUNTABLE...


JWM said...


Do you think there is any chance the editors will ask the questions they should?

I don't.

They'll continue to cheerlead for Brodhead and the BOT despite the harm that does to Duke.

But I respect you for trying.

Duke '87

Anonymous said...