Staff Editorial: Proposed Law Could Transfer Police Power
When a UMW student was raped in 2008 in the parking garage, the entire university was shocked by not only the incident, but by the handling of the case, which later led to a $10 million lawsuit against the university.
However, a new bill introduced by Virginia Representative Paula Miller (D, Norfolk) could effectively change who handles similar cases.
The bill would require that UMW police report deaths or alleged rapes that occur on campus to Fredericksburg Police Department. The Fredericksburg police would then be responsible for the investigation, with cooperation from UMW.
While we are thankful to campus police, the Fredericksburg police have far more training and experience in handling violent crimes. This experience could be valuable in intense situations that a smaller police force rarely sees.
Also, city police would not have the same conflict of interest that the campus police might have in protecting the university’s reputation. City police would not be subject to the same pressure from the administration.
However, it is understandable that campus police may feel territorial about their jurisdiction. They work hard here to make sure students are protected, but Fredericksburg police have more of the tools and personnel. Ideally, a joint effort would yield the best results.
Especially amid the $10 million lawsuit, this bill could allow students to feel safer with help from both UMW and Fredericksburg police.
At times, the Bullet and UMW students are confused by which police force to call, or which police force will handle certain crimes.
This bill also has implications for other university colleges. For example, the University of Virginia had a similar rape incident that was dismissed by campus police.
While we certainly hope that UMW avoids these cases in the future by using precautionary strategies, this bill could help ease the confusion over jurisdiction in rapes and deaths.