Mar. 11—LEWISTON — A Bates College campus safety officer has been placed on paid leave pending an outside investigation of an upsetting incident involving a student last week.
The college's newspaper, The Bates Student, said in a story Wednesday that "two safety officers restrained and tackled a first-year student in Rand Hall on Friday night" after responding to a report that some students had violated COVID-19 and alcohol rules.
It said a video taken by a witness shows the unnamed student, dressed in pajama pants and a robe, "being restrained and handcuffed by two officers while yelling loudly in pain" and forced to his knees while screaming for help.
The paper identified one of the officers as Lead Campus Safety Officer Dennis Skinner. Skinner was also recorded last month telling someone that Bates security responds differently based on the race of students.
Skinner, a 25-year veteran, declined Thursday to discuss anything about the incident or recording.
The student handcuffed by officers told the student paper, "I would never wish another student to experience what I did last Friday night. The raw fear consuming me, the helplessness swallowing me — it lurks in me still. It feels like something completely apart from reality."
Joshua McIntosh, vice president for campus life, told students in an email this week that an unidentified "campus safety staff member" who had restrained a student had been put on leave pending the results of an outside probe into what happened, as well as comments he made about race and policing at Bates while talking with students last month.
On the recording made in February, which has been posted online by the Bates Black Student Union and others, Skinner tells students that most officers at the college are afraid to take action against Black students.
"If a person of color lies, guess what? They're going to believe that student over us," he said. "We're more apt not to document a person of color. I do think most of the department is like that."
Consequently, he said, "They get away with a lot more."
The Black student union said in a response on Instagram that the officer's claims are dishonest.
"All of the interactions that students of color, Black students specifically, have had with security have been harsh, violent and scary," the union said.
It said that claiming students of color "can weaponize their identities" is "a white supremacist dog whistle" since "we are never believed when we talk about our experiences. White people are always believed, and also coddled in response to processes meant to hold them accountable."
McIntosh said the recording "raises concerns about unequal treatment based on race or ethnicity."
"To be clear, differential enforcement of student conduct policies based on race or ethnicity is wholly unacceptable and contrary to college policy and Campus Safety training and procedures," McIntosh said.
Calling this "a time of stress for so many students" and a moment of "heightened recognition of the pervasive effects of racial bias," McIntosh said the college has "a duty to fully understand these events and consider their implications for all of our students."
"Accordingly, we have placed the staff member on leave, and we will engage an outside investigator to gather information about the Friday incident, as well as the broader issue of enforcement practices in Campus Safety," he said.
Once the probe is done, he said, "the college will take any and all appropriate action."
McIntosh said the senior associate dean of students, Carl Steidel, "will be working with the outside investigator to identify the students and staff who have relevant information. The investigation will begin shortly."