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The Blue & Gray Press | November 23, 2017

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Press Denied Call Records

The University denied the Bullet’s request for police records related to President Judy Hample’s false report during a safety walk on Sept. 30.

The Bullet requested all UMW Police Department records on Jan. 25, including audio and video, under the Freedom of Information Act.

The act was established to help citizens and reporters obtain government information.  The Free Lance-Star also filed a request for the information and was denied.

The request was denied yesterday because the University characterized the material sought after as evidence in a “criminal investigation.”
But some press experts questioned the denial.

“This is not a criminal investigation, just a test done by the President,” Executive Director of the Virginia Press Association Ginger Stanley said yesterday.

The Bullet reported last October that UMW police decided not to charge Hample in a mix-up involving an emergency phone call placed during the annual Safety Walk.  In her call, Hample posed as someone on campus being pursued by an assailant with a gun.  She later explained that she was testing the “blue light” emergency-phone system.
University Police, however, did not have any prior knowledge of the test.

According to police records, Hample technically filed a false report, in violation of Code of Virginia 18.2-461.  In Virginia, it is a misdemeanor offense to falsely summon or give false reports to law-enforcement officials.  Police did not charge the president.

In October, Hample released a statement to the Bullet, saying, “As President of the University, I am ultimately responsible for the safety and welfare of our campuses.”
Campus police were concerned by the call though.

“This caused a serious, risky potential hazard to the campus community,” Executive Director of Police and Security Services Mark Sandor said in October.  “We responded as a real emergency.”

Torre Meringolo, the vice president for advancement and university relations, told the Free Lance-Star that the information “would’ve been evidence used in any criminal investigation, should it have gone further.”  Meringolo said Hample is not under criminal investigation.

Ed Jones, editor of the Free Lance-Star, said in an e-mail to the University asking for a reconsideration of the denial, “After all, how can it be claimed that the unfounded call is part of a criminal investigation when it has been stated clearly that no crime was being committed against the caller?”