Freshman files complaint against UPD officers for aggressive behavior

Updated Feb. 14, 2014 at 7:45 p.m.

Martin McSherry was asleep in his Thurston Hall room around 4:45 a.m. on Saturday when he heard banging on his door.

For the next half hour, McSherry was questioned by two University Police officers who accused him of stealing an elevator GWorld card reader and threatened that he could land in jail for his crime, he said.

“There’s something that just doesn’t feel right about knocking on someone’s door at like 4:30 a.m.,” McSherry said. “They were trying to scare me and it worked.”

The freshman filed a complaint against the University Police Department Tuesday, claiming the officers were aggressive and unprofessional.

The two officers, Jeffrey Kerch and Mark Thunstedt, said they’d seen him take the card reader in security camera footage. After they did not find it in his room, they told McSherry to expect a call from an investigator on Monday.

McSherry was cleared by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities as well as UPD this week.

In an email to McSherry that was provided to The Hatchet, UPD Chief Kevin Hay said he “regretted any inconvenience” to McSherry. He added that the poor quality of the security footage made it “difficult for responding officers to see exactly what happened and what your part was in this incident.”

Hay told The Hatchet in an email Friday that no charges were filed after “the student was interviewed and admitted handling the device but stated he was just trying to fix it and did not take it.”

“These card readers are important security devices protecting residence halls from intruders and they are expensive to replace, so the officers had a duty to investigate this theft,” he said, adding that another suspect was eventually identified.

Kerch was suspended for five days last year for responding to an incident off-campus where he followed a car and “became involved in a verbal altercation” with the driver and passenger. He was told to complete customer service training at his own expense, according to MPD documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request last year.

McSherry said he hoped that by filing a complaint he could protect other students from having a similar run-in with Kerch or other officers.

“This officer has a history of unprofessionalism and harassment, and I want to make sure that he can improve the way he interacts with students,” McSherry said. “That will make GW a better place to live, learn and grow up to respect authority and not grimace at the sight of a shiny badge.”

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