UMass Dartmouth To Look Into Sexual Assault, Cover-Up Allegations
DARTMOUTH — UMass Dartmouth has hired a firm led by former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis to investigate accusations that the university covered up an alleged sexual assault by one of its campus police officers in 2010.
The cover-up allegations were made in an 81-page report commissioned by the town of Blackstone and released last month, which found that the university failed to disclose the alleged sexual assault — and even allegedly "stonewalled" investigators.
Blackstone officials had asked investigators to look into the alleged misconduct by former UMass Dartmouth police officer David Laudon, who was hired by their police department in 2013 despite the serious accusations against him from 2010.
Laudon resigned from his position as a Blackstone police officer before the report came out.
WBUR's Walter Wuthmann reports that investigators found Laudon lied about his prior misconduct at UMass Dartmouth, and that the university covered up the allegations, allowing him to resign quietly.
The report also finds that the university did not disclose the allegations to the Blackstone department when they asked about Laudon — and years later, even allegedly obstructed the investigation.
"The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and its police department have demonstrated a total lack of cooperation in this investigation," the report notes.
Investigators added that authorities should review the university's actions "given the damage caused by UMD’s malfeasance in handling this case then and now."
Statement from UMass Dartmouth
Now, UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Dr. Mark Fuller has announced that the university is hiring the Edward Davis Company "to conduct an independent review of all the facts known to UMass Dartmouth at the time of these incidents in 2010."
Fuller said he has also asked the firm to report on the actions taken by the university regarding the allegations against Laudon, as well as to communicate with the town of Blackstone to find out more about how Laudon was hired there.
"While these incidents occurred over thirteen years ago, I state unequivocally that today’s UMass Dartmouth does not condone any behavior such as is described in the Blackstone report," Fuller noted.
"My administration does not tolerate sex discrimination, sexual harassment, or sexual violence of any kind."
He added that university policy encourages students and others to report any such incidents.
"All such reports are taken seriously and will be thoroughly investigated and appropriately addressed," Fuller wrote, adding that he intends to make the firm's findings public.
Allegations Against Laudon
The redacted Blackstone report details the allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Laudon by a UMass Dartmouth student from over a decade ago, which investigators deemed "credible."
Laudon later resigned from his position at the university police department due to "inappropriate" relations with at least one student, as he admitted to investigators.
He denies the sexual assault allegations, although investigators note in the report that he had been untruthful with them about the nature of his relationship with the student.
Investigators also noted that there is no evidence campus police conducted any criminal investigation into the allegations against Laudon.
Alleged Obstruction of Investigation
In the report, investigators document numerous failed attempts at getting information from the university during the monthslong inquiry, including multiple unreturned calls and requests to a variety of university officials.
"UMD officials actively interfered with Chief Parker’s attempts to interview Chief Souza, and they attempted to interfere with the interview of [name redacted]," investigators wrote in the report.
They also accused the university of ignoring case law, internal affairs requirements for police departments, and orders from the Secretary of State Public Records supervisor.
"Such a lack of conformance should raise questions about the University’s decision makers involved in this matter as well as their leadership and ethics," the investigators conclude.
UMass Dartmouth spokesman Ryan Merrill called the report “inaccurate, misleading, and incomplete” in a statement to WBUR, the outlet reported.