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Campus police conclude investigation into officer’s misconduct

Officer found to have acted inappropriately towards student during fire alarm

UMBC police have concluded their investigation into an officer’s alleged misconduct after receiving a complaint from a student. Investigators found that Officer Jamie Cheatem acted inappropriately while responding to a triggered fire alarm at Patapsco Hall on February 15. The event is being treated as an isolated incident, and no departmental changes are being implemented.

UMBC’s Deputy Police Chief Paul Dillon said, “We found that [Cheatem’s] actions were not consistent with what our expectations are, … that some of the things he said were not the most appropriate.”

According to witnesses, Cheatem asked a student who was cooking in Patapsco Hall at the time the alarm went off to step forward and — in front of the crowd of evacuated residents— state his name, that he couldn’t cook, and that he had “fucked up.”

Following an internal investigation, which consisted of interviewing several witnesses and Cheatem himself, the department has concluded that, although Cheatem publicly embarrassed a student, “he did not have any malicious intent … and so we have taken appropriate action internally,” according to Dillon.

The incident garnered a broad mix of reactions from members of the UMBC community. Some students condemned the officer’s actions, while others defended Cheatem, citing their positive experiences with him and expressing disbelief at eyewitness accounts.

Although he determined that Cheatem did not intend to offend or upset anyone, Dillon said, “I offer our apologies as an agency for anybody at that scene that was offended by what the officer said.”

When asked about plans to prevent similar situations in the future, Dillon said that because he has received “nothing but positive feedback about [Cheatem’s] performance, I don’t think there’s a need to make any changes to prevent this from happening again. We think it was an isolated incident that the officer learned from. We all say things sometimes that we regret that might be inappropriate or might offend folks. We learn from those and try to become better communicators.”