In the beginning of the Fall 2006 semester, a string of complaints filed against the Office of Campus Police prompted the formation of the ad hoc Committee on Campus Police. Since the formation of the committee, members have been working toward the creation of a report containing testimonials of student interaction with Campus Police.
The 40-page report was completed and submitted to College President R. Barbara Gitenstein prior to Spring Break. In a follow-up meeting with committee members on March 26, Gitenstein delayed the release of the report to the campus community, citing the need for further revisions.
“The Committee is currently in the process of completing their final report . they wanted some clarifications on some issues regarding statutes, state procedures and union contract matters,” Gitenstein said in an e-mail interview.
James Gant, Student Government Association (SGA) vice president and committee chair, indicated that Gitenstein delegated Vivian Fernandez, associate vice president for Human Resources, and Heather Fehn, executive assistant to the President, to assist in making additional revisions prior to the report’s publication. Gant said this has been done to ensure the legality and plausibility of the recommendations made by the committee through the report.
The idea of the ad hoc Committee on Campus Police was first suggested by Michael Robertson, president of the faculty senate and professor of English at the College. Robertson created the committee, incorporating three members from both the staff and faculty senates, as well as two members of SGA.
Also sitting on the committee is James Lopez, member of the staff senate and employee of the Office of Campus Police. Gant said Lopez’s presence on the committee has been a valuable asset toward the creation of the report.
“(Lopez’s input) has totally worked out for us,” Gant said. “He has not given one biased opinion.”
Gant indicated that despite Lopez’s presence on the committee, employees of the Office of Campus Police were hesitant to aid the committee.
“Initially, Campus Police thought that (the committee) was a witch hunt and officers didn’t want to testify,” he said.
As more officers began to appear before the committee, Gant said they began to realize that the intentions of the committee were not hostile. Rather, the committee sought to re-evaluate methods in which officers are trained, in addition to reinforcing the concept of “community policing.”
“The campus is not a municipality,” Gant said. “It’s a community.”
Gant said the role of Campus Police is educational, much like any other component of the greater College community.
When asked to provide an example of community policing, Gant suggested that if a student was discovered to be intoxicated, the proper response of a police officer would be to immediately evaluate the safety of the individual, provide the help that they need and to then follow up with an explanation of the charges and legal procedure at a later time.
Gant said James Norfleet, vice president of Student Life, provided examples of community policing at other colleges and universities.
Having identified the objectives of the committee, Gant said Henry Fradella, member of the faculty senate and professor of criminology and justice studies, began to write and revise the draft of the report.
Publication of the report is expected to occur within three weeks. The report will not utilize names for reasons of job security and confidentiality. Gant expressed the hope that students would have a vested interest in the publication of the report’s findings.