The Tulane Hullabaloo

TUPD amends its screening process, sensitivity training following recent incident

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TUPD amends its screening process, sensitivity training following recent incident

Kila Moore, News Editor

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On Thursday, Nov. 15, The Hullabaloo discovered that two of three new police officers hired by Tulane University Police Department had posted content to their personal social media pages that contradicted Tulane’s equity policies.

One of the officers, Ethan Hutton, had several posts on his Facebook page regarding his U.S. Army tour in Afghanistan — one post in which he referred to the country as “Asscrackistan.” Additionally, he made jokes referring to the Holocaust, and another post contained a homophobic slur.

The second officer, Derrick Tomberlin, shared a post with an image saying, “Only 90’s kids will remember this.” Behind the text, a form contained a question asking, “Are you male or female?” which only had two answer choices — male or female.

Following reports of the incident, TUPD placed the two officers on administrative leave until an investigation could be complete. Later the same day, Hutton resigned from the police department. Tomberlin later returned to the force after completing Anti-Bias Training for Law Enforcement and Cultural Diversity Training for Law Enforcement.

Though TUPD acted quickly in placing the officers on leave based on its initial findings, some members of the Tulane community are wondering why the department originally hired them.

“I find it difficult to do work in my Council advocating for Tulane’s queer community when the very people who are hired to protect us don’t respect our existence on this campus,” Kennon Stewart, the chair of the Undergraduate Student Government Gender and Sexuality Affairs Council, said. “And the fact that people are surprised at this happening shows how insulated a lot of the Tulane community is when it comes to their classmates of color’s issues with police.”

According to Chief of Police Kirk Bouyelas, TUPD considers several different factors when hiring applicants and particularly looks for those who are committed to serving everyone equally.

“When evaluating potential new officers, we try to identify individuals who have the highest integrity and character — individuals who are intent on being good police officers and delivering quality service and protection to every member of the Tulane community,” Bouyelas said.

After applying for a position with TUPD, applicants must complete a series of interviews conducted by TUPD personnel and a representative from human resources. TUPD then administers a set of screenings, including a background check, substance abuse screening and psychological evaluation.

Though the department does screen applicants’ social media, Hutton and Tomberlin’s posts violated the policies set by Tulane. Bouyelas says TUPD regrets the incident and is taking steps to ensure it will not happen again.

“We have reissued and reiterated the policy regarding social media and are working to ensure that our screening process leads us to candidates who are the right fit for our community and will uphold our values,” Bouyelas said.

The updated policy will have to be signed by all of TUPD personnel to ensure that they have reviewed it and agree to follow it.

Additionally, all TUPD personnel will be required to review a training video about the social media standards for officers.

TUPD will also work with the Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity to train officers on issues relating to bias and cultural awareness.

According to Bouyelas, Lisa Currie, the interim associate director of the Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity, will conduct a training on gender and sexual diversity issues with TUPD personnel. If Currie is unable to do so, TUPD will use PoliceOne’s online training course that will educate officers on protecting the LGBTQ+ community while also improving consciousness for officers.

Currie said she is excited to collaborate with TUPD after they establish definite plans.

“As it was an initial conversation, we were speaking in rather broad terms,” Currie said. “Therefore, content specifics or the dates the trainings will occur have not been settled yet. It will take us some time to sort out the details but I am eager to work with TUPD on this.”

New hires will also be required to meet with a LGBTQ+ liaison for the police department, as well as TUPD’s Community Policing Lieutenant, who will go over the impact of social media.

Going forward, Bouyelas said, TUPD will make sure a thorough social media review is performed for potential new hires to make sure any “suspicious posts” are highlighted during the hiring process.

Some student leaders are also willing to aid TUPD in inclusion training. Joanitah Nakiggwe, the USG Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Committee chair, says the committee is working on creating a strong network between TUPD and students.

“We can collaborate with the student safety committee and come up with ways to improve this system and also delve into the current training that is already being used,” Nakiggwe said. “At the same time, DIEC is already planning a forum that will have TUPD there and allow students to directly ask questions to this department along with a few others.”

Though TUPD is working to amend its policies regarding cultural awareness among its officers, many students feel there is still work to be done.

“Whether it’s TUPD accusing us of smoking weed and kicking us out of buildings or not being responsive after a student of color was the victim of a hate crime, their policies reflect a wider indifference toward marginalized folks on campus,” Stewart said.

The Hullabaloo will continue to report on the story as it develops.

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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans
TUPD amends its screening process, sensitivity training following recent incident