On Wednesday, Mount Holyoke College announced that the newly-selected campus police chief Daniel Hect was placed on administrative leave after a backlash when students discovered he had liked conservative tweets on his Twitter account.
The whole ordeal started when Hect was appointed to lead the Mount Holyoke College and Smith College shared campus police departments. Then on February 6, Hect announced his new appointment at MHC and Smith on his personal Twitter account, The Daily Wire previously reported.
“I am excited to announce I have accepted the position of Chief of Police at Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges, two of the most prestigious all women’s institutions in the nation,” he tweeted.
Hect’s excitement was short lived because soon after, students investigated his Twitter account, finding a few conservative-leaning tweets that he “liked.” Two tweets were from the National Rifle Association, one wishing followers a Merry Christmas and one stating, “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Other tweets were from President Trump discussing the border wall and the government shutdown.
The MHC student who shared screenshots of the tweet said it was “unacceptable for someone in charge of keeping any community safe, let alone a campus as diverse as MHC's, to be publicly displaying his support for hateful regimes and organizations, as well as for individuals who demonize migrants from Mexico or other latin american nations.”
Following the controversy, Hect and the colleges’ administrations hosted several events to try to ease the students’ worries.
Mount Holyoke community members were able to ask him questions at a March 21 forum. According to the student newspaper, the event “hosted tension and tears.” During the event, Hect said he wanted the campus police to grow a better relationship with the community so students can get to know “the campus police as human beings.” Many of the students' questions reportedly focused on his social media and his political ideology.
Hect told the audience that “when [Trump] did something that I thought he did well, I wanted to like [the tweets] in hopes to lead to more good behavior,” adding that he does not support Donald Trump overall.
Hect also apologized for liking the tweets that mentioned building a wall, calling it “a huge mistake.”
After the forum, Hect sent an email to the MHC community, claiming he was “appreciative” of the “level of participation.”
“It was clear to me during the event that I have work to do in order to better lead a campus police department charged with supporting and protecting this wonderfully diverse, intelligent and committed community of students, faculty and staff,” Hect wrote.
Hect also listed “immediate steps” he would take in the coming days to achieve his goal of making the campus police be “a positive influence on campus safety.” The steps included creating a Campus Safety Advisory Committee and attending an “immersive training program” to learn about “challenging biases and exploring beliefs.” His steps also included events such as meeting with a class for a “restorative justice circle,” and two “listening sessions” where community members could express their concerns about safety on campus.
He concluded that he was “committed to developing relationships and trust with all members of our communities — students, faculty, staff and campus police.”
But before any of these events even had the chance to take place, MHC Pesident Sonya Stephens announced that Hect would be placed on “administrative leave” Wednesday night.
“Over the past few weeks, members of our community have expressed concerns about the ability of Chief Daniel Hect to develop the level of trust required to engage in community policing,” MHC President Sonya Stephens said in a campus-wide email.
Stephens added that Deputy Police Chief Ray LaBarre was appointed as the Acting Chief of Campus Police.
“We are working closely with Smith College on this issue, and I will continue to keep our campus community informed,” Stephens concluded.
Hect has worked in police departments for over 30 years. He previously served as director of public safety and chief of police at two universities in Ohio: Xavier University and Denison University. He also served as a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force Security services, according to his Linkedin profile.
An article from Xavier’s student paper from January said that Hect “made a career out of connecting to his communities,” adding that “Hect believes that a job as a police officer isn’t confined to formalities, but efforts need to be made to engage with those you are sworn to protect.”