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The Blue & Gray Press | February 22, 2018

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City Police May Handle Violent Campus Crime

On Jan. 21, Representative Paula Miller (D, Norfolk) presented House bill 2490 to the General Assembly, which if passed would require campus police departments across the commonwealth to hand jurisdiction of cases involving sexual assault and death over to local police forces.

“This is not an assault on campus police,” said Miller. “But you can’t ignore that campus police work for the administration, and if they were unsure and thought a case would bring undue attention to the university they would not be as inclined to investigate as an organization that is detached.”

Miller became interested in the issue when a woman approached her about her daughter who had been raped at the University of Virginia. The woman felt like the campus police were not helping the investigation and wanted to change the language of the Virginia’s jurisdiction laws.

The victim in this case was not helped by campus police, according to Miller, and took herself to an emergency room. However, after hours of attempting to get help on campus and four additional hours in the hospital’s waiting room, physical evidence could not be recovered.
“In this case if it had been investigated thoroughly, the physical evidence would have been able to show the crime,” Miller said.

The victim will give testimony at the hearing, scheduled for Feb. 4. Campus organizations that saw similar bills pass in Tennessee and West Virginia will also give testimony.

According to Susan Knick, assistant vice president for public safety, the University of Mary Washington already has a good working relationship with local police.

“I cannot think of a time, ever, when we have contacted them and they have not offered immediate assistance,” Knick said. “The relationship we share with [Fredericksburg Police Department] is extremely special to us.”

Currently, the UMW police have the authority as whether to investigate crimes internally or seek outside help.

“Our police officers are fully trained and certified law enforcement officers of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Knick said. “There is no difference in the qualifications between our police or those serving in the city or any other jurisdictions of the commonwealth.”

According to Knick, the UMW police evaluate the need for outside help based on the nature of the crime and their ability to adequately staff an investigation while still meeting the safety and security responsibilities of UMW’s campuses.

“Currently, as a public institution, there is a process already in place and very well known to Virginia public schools for investigations and other law enforcement support to be offered by the Virginia State Police whenever we ask for such, and we do call upon them for that support,” Knick said.

Senior Megan Myers supports the bill.

“I’ve always heard complaints about how slow [the campus police] are to respond,” Myers said. “A lot of people are not confident in them. This is more a matter of comfort than it is whether they can handle it themselves.”

According to Miller, the bills’ largest opposition will come from campus police forces.

“I think the obstacle is campus police thinking we are trying to usurp their power and say they are not qualified,” Miller said. “That’s not what I’m saying. This is to give [victims] a level of comfort especially in sexual assault that they can rest assured that their case will be investigated thoroughly.”

“There are implications for campus law enforcement as well as for local law enforcement agencies if it is passed,” Knick said. “The nuances of this bill have yet to be fully vetted.  It will be interesting for all of us to watch the movement of this legislation.”

The bill would amend the section of the Code of Virginia dealing with jurisdiction to say:

“The chief law-enforcement officer of a public or private institution of higher education, or his designee, shall immediately notify the local law-enforcement agency of the locality in which the institution of higher education is located of (i) the death of any person on the property of the institution when such person is medically unattended and (ii) any report alleging that a rape has occurred on the property of the institution. Upon notification, the local law-enforcement agency shall assume responsibility for leading the investigation. The campus police department and all other employees of the institution of higher education shall cooperate with the local law-enforcement agency conducting the investigation and shall provide any assistance requested by the local law-enforcement agency.”

Comments

  1. Virginia has six classes of felonies, with punishments ranging from execution to 12 months in jail, depending on the crime. For this reason, supporters of HB2490 believe local law enforcement should lead the investigation, with campus law enforcement assisting the lead with data collection.

    You can read more about this bill on our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Virginia-House-Bill-2490/104956822912181

  2. The above link was incorrect. Apologies. try this:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Virginia-House-Bill-2490/104956822912181

  3. Okay, so the local police department works for the mayor. Should you turn investigations over to an outside agency that might bring undue attention to the mayor in an election year? This shouldn’t be ignored. Who is going to ensure that the local police department does not under-investigate a difficult date-rape case because they just don’t have the time?

    Essentially Rep. Miller is saying that campus law enforcement officers have the qualifications to handle the cases but they do not have the integrity. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

  4. @Steve: Many people living in the Commonwealth, to include most lawmakers, are under the assumption that local law enforcement has the jurisdiction to investigate any crime that occurs on a college campus. Unfortunately, that assumption is wrong. Campus police have jurisdictional rights for dormitories and classroom buildings. Local law enforcement may be called in to assist, but unless the University or college transfers jurisdiction to them, campus police retain jurisdiction.

    This bill would change that. Whenever a felony crime occurs on campus property, the local law enforcement would be notified and jurisdiction COULD transfer because of the nature of the crime – IF either the campus police or the victim requested that the local department take the lead. Universities should welcome this clause as it would relieve them of the scrutiny that exists during the the prosecution of these crimes.

    This bill is not meant to demean the hardworking campus police, but to aid them. It allows the crime to also be investigated by the local police, when either the school or the victim requests the additional assistance. Remember, this bill addresses only FELONY crimes.

    Why this bill? Statistics show that campus police tend to turn a blind eye to campus rape crimes. They treat them as administrative matters. Rape is a felony crime and should be investigated and handled as a felony crime.

    Do I have personal experience with this? Yes. My daughter was raped at UVA. The campus cops did nothing to investigate. Six months later this guy raped another coed, was found guilty by a School Sexual Assault Board and allowed to remain on campus. Perhaps, if the local police were allowed to investigate, that 2nd rape would not have happened. Was the school liable to that 2nd woman and did they open themselves up to a lawsuit? That would also be a “yes” because they had the opportunity to remove the predator from the campus.

  5. Rey

    I’ve been in campus law enforcement/security for about 20 years now. There have been quite a few rapes reported and unreported at the college’s I’ve worked for during that time. Each was different. ONLY the victim really knows what they want. Unless you’ve been victimized you don’t know the process. It’s a wive’s tale that the college’s purposes hide sexual assualt cases. As for investigations, the campus police officer is probably going to be the first on the scene or the first person a coed reports it to if not the college counselors (which by their oath to secrecy often can only report a person was sexual assualted but no more details). Local police have a city full of crimes and whether we want to belive it or not, college crimes are not a priority to any city/town etc… Why do campus police departments exist. Because they are the only ones to actual attention to the college community, that is direct attention. A college police department can’t hide from its community and can be held accountable. We are trained, I have training as a sexual assualt investigator and also have taught for 10 years women self defense. I still had a student who was sexually assaulted. Those preditors (sex offenders) are not going to stop because the college “hides” thier actions and allows them to “stay”. The law is the law. If a person brakes the law, the college can’t protect them. A victim has choices and those same choices add to the confusion and stories of “cover ups”. Campus Police will always ask local police and/or state police for assistance if they can’t handle the investigation. There doesn’t need to be a law in place. I believe that law will only confuse the matter even more. Why not just have locals due all criminal investigations so that every victim/survivor has a chance.