Two employees of the University of Chicago Police Department have been put on administrative leave amid the finding that an officer posed as a protester and spied on a Feb. 23 demonstration calling for the school to offer expanded trauma care services at its new $700 million hospital.
According to DNAinfo Chicago, one university detective -- identified by campus newspaper The Chicago Maroon as Janelle Marcellis -- was photographed in plainclothes at the protest using a Blackberry to text message Deputy Chief of Investigative Services Milton Owens as she monitored the protest.
University President Robert Zimmer and Provost Thomas Rosenbaum described in a statement over the weekend that the officer's actions were "totally antithetical" to what the school stands for and were "deeply problematic for discourse and mutual respect on campus," the Chicago Tribune reports. Both university officials and the police department's chief have claimed they had no knowledge of the undercover operation and first learned of the incident due to the Maroon breaking the story.
An internal investigation into the matter has been launched, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, and Zimmer and Rosenbaum also said they will be hiring an outsider investigator to look into the undercover operation.
A peaceful previous sit-in protest at the university's Medical Center turned violent when police appeared on the scene and arrested four demonstrators. One protester said she was kicked and pushed in the back by a university police officer at the Jan. 27 demonstration.
Protesters are pushing for the university to reopen its trauma facility that it closed 25 years ago. By lacking adult trauma care, protesting groups -- among them Students for Health Equity and Fearless Leadership by the Youth -- claim the hospital ignores the needs of South Side residents, namely victims of gun violence. There are no adult trauma centers on the South Side, so most trauma victims are taken to facilitates located several miles away.