Barnard College
Barnard College in New York. (Photo: Beyond My Ken , Wikimedia Commons

Four public safety officers at New York’s Barnard College have been placed on administrative leave following a confrontation with a Black Columbia University student who was restrained by them last week in what he described as “an NYPD police officer-type interaction.”

The incident, which he says amounts to racial profiling, was captured on cellphone video and has since gone viral.

Alexander McNab, a senior at Columbia, told The Columbia Spectator that officers followed him from Barnard’s main gates to the Milstein Center on campus for Teaching and Learning Thursday night, where he was allegedly pinned against a coffee store counter.

McNab said the incident was prompted when he refused to show his Columbia ID at the main gate after 11 p.m., although students are required to show identificaiton at that time. Barnard is a woman’s undergraduate college and connected to Columbia University. Columbia students are allowed to enter Barnard facilities when the show ID McNab said he knew the rules, but intentionally didn’t cooperate because officers routinely don’t enforce the same rule with white students.

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McNab said officers repeatedly asked him for his ID and asked him to leave the building. Video taken by bystanders say two officers restrained him against a counter at Peet’s Coffee, and then McNab produced his ID, according to The Spectator.

“I hadn’t made any threats; all I said was I’m not going to show you my ID. I don’t understand where that came from,” McNab told The Spectator, referring to the physical restraint the officers used. “It’s like I was resisting arrest or something. It was very much like an NYPD police officer-type interaction.”

Officers ran McNab’s ID to ensure he was an “active” student at Columbia. Witnesses say about a half dozen officers responded in total.

In the captured video, Barnard officers mention that they followed McNab after he ran through Barnard’s main gates, past a Public Safety van, and across the yard, refusing to show ID. McNab and witnesses say this is untrue, that McNab was seen on video walking at a regular pace.

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The Spectator reported Monday that the six officers who confronted McNab were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

“We are taking this very seriously and look forward to further engaging the community on this topic. Barnard values inclusivity and is committed to ensuring a safe, respectful, and welcoming place for each and every member of our community, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or national origin,” the school said in a statement.

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McNab said this isn’t the only troublesome incident he’s had with Barnard officers. He said over the past year, officers requested his ID two additional times — and that he was simply fed up. The first time, McNab said he was leaving Bernard Hall when an officer asked him to present his ID. The second time, McNab told the Spectator he was getting a sip of water from a water fountain during dance rehearsal. Because he was barefoot, Public Safety officers asked to see his ID to ensure he wasn’t a vagrant.

“Because of all of that, I said ‘Nah, that’s not happening again this time,’” McNab said, explaining his rationale for not showing his ID to a Spectator reporter.

The Spectator reached out to Barnard Public Safety officers for comment, but the request was declined, according to the newspaper.

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This is the latest incident to prompt concern among Columbia’s minority students over problematic dealings with Barnard Public Safety officers. Last month, students of color attended a Barnard Student Government Association meeting, where they voiced their concerns to Public Safety Executive Director Antonio Gonzalez about several incidents involving officers harassing minority women on campus.

Barnard President Sian Beilock released a statement on Friday, in which she expressed “deep regret” about the “unfortunate incident,” adding that she “raised concerns about our safety and security policies and how they are enforced.”