A state law passed in 1970 – P.L. 1970, c. 211 (C. 18A:6-4.2 et seq.) – which the office of Campus Police Services makes a point of referencing on the main page of its Web site, grants security officers hired by state education institutions “all powers of police and constables in criminal cases and offenses against the law throughout the State of New Jersey.”
Some laws, however, don’t get as much publicity.
Take, for instance, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The law dictates that schools must publish an annual report containing “three years worth of campus crime statistics and certain security policy statements.”
Certainly, last week, the College lived up to its responsibility, and released the report.
The Clery Act, however, also states that logs detailing the “nature, date, time, and general location of each crime” committed on campus must be maintained in the short term as well. According to the law, Campus Police is allowed a two-business-day grace period to include its report.
The law also says that, at any time – not only as a student, but simply as a member of the general public – you have the right to stroll into campus’ Administrative Services Building to take a look at this log.
And until last Friday, in a clear violation of the Clery Act, Campus Police did not have a fully updated log. At one point last month, the log was at least 40 days out of date. When The Signal made the office aware of the violation, Operations Lt. Don Rizzo, a Campus Police administrator, said he was “not familiar with the specifics” of the act.
It doesn’t seem too much to ask for the College to employ a police force that commands an understanding of the laws it is commissioned to uphold.
While Campus Police administrators have blamed much of this on personnel changes, this still does not put them above the requirements of the act. Further disconcerting is what we have interpreted as complacency – until we took notice and intervened, of course – towards their legal obligation to maintain the log.
Likewise, there is the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA), which dictates that certain information pertaining to criminal investigations must be released to the public within 24 hours, even if the investigation is ongoing.
Here, Campus Police’s record is less than exemplary.
In the case of a reportedly drunken man, looking to tutor girls, who intruded on an English class in Bliss Hall late last week, a man whose identity and presence on campus is, reportedly, well-known to Campus Police, officers have refused to even speak to our reporters.
We do not know if the police managed to identify him, if they’ve talked to him, if he’s been banned from campus, if students should be on the lookout for him.
In order to comply with the mandates of both the Clery Act and OPRA, Campus Police needs to appoint a member of its staff to handle media inquiries.
The Signal is an extraordinary resource for Campus Police to utilize to make sure students are aware of the threats that exist on campus. To ignore our – or indeed anyone’s – requests for information is to put students in danger.