South Hadley, MA – A newly-appointed campus police chief has been placed on administrative leave, after students discovered he “liked” tweets that supported President Trump, the National Rifle Association (NRA), and legal immigration.
The Mount Holyoke College Campus Police Department is shared by Mount Holyoke, Hampshire, and Smith colleges, according to the university website.
Mount Holyoke College Campus Police Chief Daniel Hect was appointed to lead the agency in February, the Grecourt Gate reported at the time.
The former U.S. Air Force Security Services master sergeant has over 30 years of law enforcement experience, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He has earned multiple degrees, including a doctorate of education, and formerly served as the police chief on multiple universities’ campuses.
“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,” Hect tweeted in February, according to The Daily Wire.
“This is a great opportunity,” he told the Grecourt Gate. “I am looking forward to working with both Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges to improve community policing efforts through engagement and ensuring the department becomes more visible and accessible.”
But immediately thereafter, students began looking into the new chief’s Twitter account, and learned he had “liked” tweets they didn’t approve of.
One such tweet wished followers a Merry Christmas.
Chief Hect had also “liked” two tweets made by the NRA, as well as several posts President Trump made regarding the government shutdown and the U.S.-Mexico border wall, The Daily Wire reported.
“If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” read another tweet the police chief “liked.”
A Mount Holyoke student posted screenshots from Chief Hect’s Twitter account on to social media, and declared 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 [sic] nations,” The Daily Wire reported.
“I believe these tweets indicate that Hect should not work at this campus,” student Olivia Marble wrote in an opinion piece for the Mount Holyoke News. “It concerns me that the College hired someone who has publicly contributed to racist and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.”
“It is very difficult for people of color to trust police officers because of the many incidences of police brutality against people of color,” the student added. “I do not understand how the hiring committee could see that Hect had a public account of arguably racist tweets and still decide to hire him.”
As concerns about Chief Hect’s alleged support of racism spread, school officials arranged a March 19 forum for students to discuss issues with the police chief.
“I’m not always super trusting of police in general,” student Rachel Wood told the Mount Holyoke News. “But [I’m] especially [wary of] someone I’d heard might be a Trump supporter.”
During the forum, Chief Hect told students that he planned to make changes to the police presence on campus, so that they would be able to “know the campus police as human beings.”
But most of the students’ questions focused on Chief Hect’s social media history and political views.
“When [Trump] did something that I thought he did well, I wanted to like [his tweets in reference to those successes] in hopes to lead to more good behavior,” he told the students. “I do not support Donald Trump. The hate that comes out of the White House is not okay.”
Chief Hect said that his decision to “like” tweets calling for a border wall were “obviously, on my end, a huge mistake,” according to the Mount Holyoke News.
He repeatedly expressed his “sincere regret” for having offended anyone, and said he hoped to gain the students’ trust in the future.
“You need to take responsibility for the damage you have done,” one student told him. “It’s not just about deleting tweets, it’s bigger than that.”
Chief Hect said he was “taking steps to address this bias,” and noted that he didn’t realize he even had biases “until people pointed it out.”
“I take ownership of that,” he said.
The chief said he would be open to holding a similar forum in the future, and sent an email to the university community expressing his appreciation for their participation, The Daily Wire reported.
“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,” his email read.
Chief Hect also announced his plan to develop a Campus Safety Advisory Committee, and said he would be attending a training program to help him learn to challenge biases and to explore beliefs.
But on Wednesday night, before Chief Hect had the opportunity to implement his plans, Mount Holyoke College President Sonya Stephens announced he had been placed on administrative leave.
“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,” Stephens said in an email to the university community.
Deputy Police Chief Ray LaBarre has been appointed as acting police chief in the meantime.
“We are working closely with Smith College on this issue, and I will continue to keep our campus community informed,” she added.