HUPD Honor Guard Profile

September 3, 2019

HUPD Honor Guard in front of Memorial Church

The HUPD Honor Guard, a volunteer corps of police officers, participates in events and funerals, representing the values of the HUPD and supporting the larger community of police officers and their friends and families. HUPD Officers Sue Clark, Bill Connell, and Deputy Chief Denis Downing discuss the work of the Honor Guard and their pride in representing the HUPD within the Harvard community and beyond.

What do you do and what is your team’s biggest contribution?

Denis Downing: The Harvard University Police Department Honor Guard was established in 1975. The unit is made up of 10 HUPD police officers who volunteer their time by participating in funerals, parades, and other ceremonial occasions. The Honor Guard supports the families of HUPD officers who have passed as well as never forgetting the men and women who have served our department. The Honor Guard has participated in many events on the Harvard University campus including football games, memorial services, and dedications.

Sue Clark: We attend various ceremonies and funerals to show support to the families and friends of those who have served in law enforcement and other public figures. The HUPD Honor Guard has also been called to attend ceremonial occasions and functions such as parades, celebrations, and tributes. The funerals for Officer Sean Collier of MIT Police Dept., Sgt. Gannon of Yarmouth Police Dept., and Sgt. Michael Chesna of Weymouth Police Dept. were recent services that the HUPD Honor Guard attended. Supporting the “Family in Blue” is a core mission to our team.

Bill Connell: I think the biggest contribution the HUPD Honor Guard makes is providing support to the families of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty. The Honor Guard not only represents the University and Department, but every member of the law enforcement community.

What don't people know about you and what your team does?

Denis: Members of the Harvard community are not always aware of our unit. We are available to volunteer for events on campus. It is an honor to serve.

Sue: There is a great amount of coordinating and communication that needs to be made before events and ceremonies, like reaching out to event coordinators or families. And a lot preparation goes into events, where the role of each Honor Guard member can vary by event. At each event, the Honor Guard consists of a minimum of five officers. Each officer displays one of the following: United States of America flag, Commonwealth of Massachusetts flag, Harvard University flag, and two rifles. During funeral services, two of the Honor Guard members stand by the casket, stand with the family, escort the family, and support the family’s wishes during their time at the ceremony.

What is the most challenging thing about your work?

Bill: Attending wakes and funerals are never easy, line of duty deaths hit especially hard.

Denis: I agree with Bill. We have attended too many funerals for officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

Sue: During times of tragedy, Honor Guard members must withstand overwhelming emotions. They must establish the strength to carry through the difficult time to represent the Harvard University Police Department. Excessive heat and extreme cold weather conditions can sometimes be challenging when marching in parades or standing at attention for extended periods of time. Supporting and honoring the family members of the deceased as well as paying respect the Harvard University community is our main purpose.

What are the professional backgrounds of your team members?

Denis: All members of the Honor Guard are sworn police officers. Training is required in drill and ceremonies to be a member of the honor guard. Attention to detail and working as a team is important.

Sue: I have been a police officer for 20 years. I have worked at the Harvard University Police Department for 15 years. Months after being hired at HUPD, I became a member of the HUPD Honor Guard.

Bill: I’ve been at HUPD for 17 years, before that, I pretty much did any job you can think of.

What does success/your best day look like?

Sue: Our most gratifying feeling is when family members and friends as well as Harvard community members are so thankful and appreciative of our Honor Guard services. Our Honor Guard members and I are thanked and hugged after we provide our presence for every event. We take great pride in our contribution to the Harvard University Police and the Harvard community. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that our honor and respect is valued by so many as we represent such a prestigious university that is world renown.

Denis: The Honor Guard promotes honor, professionalism, and integrity through its conduct and at all times holding the department’s core values to the highest degree. While doing this our officers receive praise for the service we provide. Bringing good will to people in difficult situations makes our honor guard special.

Bill: I enjoy my job, and the best day is going home safely.