The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Three Northeastern police officers receive misconduct complaints, new state data show

The NUPD’s headquarters, located in 716 Columbus Ave. Three NUPD officers are listed on a new state report as having sustained allegations of misconduct. File photo by Kelly Chan

Three Northeastern University Police Department, or NUPD, officers were among 2,165 police officers in Massachusetts listed in a recently released database by the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, or POST Commission. The database compiles officers reported to have sustained allegations of misconduct between 1984 and 2023.

The officers included Jason Grueter, who had two allegations of bias on the basis of gender; James Witzgall, who had five allegations of ‘conduct unbecoming’; and Brenda Zirpolo, who had one allegation of alcohol or drug abuse. 

The report, released Aug. 22, detailed the disciplinary actions taken against the officers, though it did not include officers who had resigned or retired in ‘good standing,’ according to POST’s website. Grueter received retraining and a 6-29 day suspension for both of his complaints, Witzgall received a 1-5 day suspension for all five of his complaints and Zirpolo received a 6-29 day suspension and an action listed as “other.”

All of the complaints against campus officers were filed between 2017 and 2022, and all officers listed on the report were still employed as of 2022 according to documents obtained by The News through a Freedom of Information Act request. The documents also showed that Grueter and Zirpolo’s incidents occurred while they were on NUPD’s force; Witzgall, who was previously a lieutenant with MBTA Transit Police and was hired by NUPD in July 2022, received all five complaints before he was hired, including one dated February 2022. 

The POST Commission was established in response to a state criminal justice reform act passed in 2020, which aimed to increase public safety and enhance public confidence in law enforcement. The law mandated that every law enforcement agency in Massachusetts release a “comprehensive disciplinary record” for every officer employed by the agency, including every complaint the officer sustained during employment. 

“Over the past year, law enforcement agencies submitted disciplinary records and POST staff has worked carefully to validate these officer records for publishing,” said POST Commission executive director Enrique Zuniga in a statement on the POST website. “We know that releasing this information furthers police accountability and is a matter of great public interest.” 

The report, the first of its kind to be released publicly in Massachusetts, compiled 3,413 complaints against 2,165 officers. The complaints date back to December 1984 and are current through Jan. 31, 2023. The database will be updated “regularly,” according to the POST’s website

Among other campus police forces in the state, NUPD had one of the lowest officer complaint rates. Harvard University’s Police Department listed the most complaints, with 77 reports among only 63 sworn officers. 

NUPD police officers are commissioned in accordance with Massachusetts General Laws as deputy sheriffs in Suffolk County, granting them “full law enforcement authority in and upon all property owned, occupied or used by the university” and rights to exercise police duties on public streets and other areas of the city adjacent to campus. Documents obtained by The News showed NUPD had 76 employed officers as of 2022. 

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Campus police hired by private universities are not subject to Massachusetts public records laws, which state that reports filed by local or state police are considered public records. 

But in accordance with the Clery Act, a federal law that mandates colleges and universities report campus crime data, NUPD publishes a daily public crime log and annual statistics on use of force data

Hilary Burns, Boston Globe’s higher education reporter and author of a recent article about the POST report, said the database is a big step in public clarity about campus police operations. 

“Massachusetts has so many private colleges, so that’s quite a few police officers who are operating without public records scrutiny, which means there’s not much transparency into how these departments operate,” Burns said in a phone interview with The News. 

According to Burns, several schools she reached out to stated the reported incidents occurred before the officer was employed by campus police. Some social activists see campuses as “landing spots” for police officers who have disciplinary records because of the lack of oversight in the process and the misconception that campus police aren’t ‘real’ police, though most have the same jurisdiction and power, Burns said. 

The POST report includes only sustained allegations where an “investigation produced a preponderance of evidence.” The database, however, is still vague in language and does not clarify certain allegations, such as complaints of ‘conduct unbecoming.’

Northeastern University has not responded to a request for comment confirming whether the university still employs the mentioned officers or regarding further information about the complaints. 

“Northeastern is one of several private colleges that declined to comment,” Burns said.  “I think it’s because they don’t have to because they’re a private institution and they don’t have to explain personnel matters to the public.” 

About the Contributor
Emily Spatz
Emily Spatz, Campus Editor
Emily Spatz is a journalism and political science combined major with a minor in english and campus editor of The News. She is currently a general assignment reporter co-op at and has interned at her hometown newspaper covering business, city events and politics. She hopes to continue bringing pertinent, timely and thorough reporting to the Northeastern community. You can follow her @emilymspatz on X.
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