U. of Cincinnati Shooting Puts Spotlight on Campus Police

1 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Campus police: different badges, different uniforms, but same deadly force.

When an Ohio prosecutor charged a campus police officer with murder in the death of a driver during a traffic stop, he offered a harsh judgment on University of Cincinnati police, saying the school should not be in the business of law enforcement at all. A white policeman who shot a black motorist after stopping him because he had a missing licence plate pleaded not guilty yesterday to murder and voluntary manslaughter. That statement and the circumstances of the shooting near campus have raised questions about college police departments, which often possess powers that extend beyond their schools’ boundaries.

The July 19 death of 43-year-old Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati, Ohio, came amid national scrutiny of police dealings with African Americans, especially those killed by police. His lawyer, Stewart Mathews, said that there were two sides to the case and the much-viewed body camera video of the stop could be interpreted differently from the prosecutor’s version. Deters continued, saying that the university should disband its police force in light of what happened and suggesting that city police patrol the campus instead. Tensing initially said he was dragged by the car, was “almost run over” and was “forced to shoot” Dubose, according to an incident report filed by Officer Eric Weibel. Officer Tensing, who could face up to life in prison if convicted, has said he thought he was going to be dragged under the car and “feared for his life”, according to Mr Mathews.

But campus police officers reject the characterization, especially as their powers continue to grow, making them more and more like municipal departments. “If the prosecutor indicated that [Tensing] was not a police officer, then I’m sorry to say that the prosecutor was dead wrong,” said Lt Charles Wilson of the Rhode Island campus police department, who writes academically about public perceptions of campus police offices. The faculty union fought the move, and its executive director said a shooting like the one in Ohio is what they feared. “I could very easily imagine someone getting pulled over, someone mouthing off and boom,” Frank Annunziato said. “It doesn’t surprise me, and it does sicken me. All police officers, regardless of the department they serve, must meet the same basic standards to be licensed or certified by the state, though some critics say campus police participate in separate and shorter training. I can tell you that.” The move toward campus police began in the 1960s, when student protests sometimes led to violent clashes with city police, according to Bill Taylor, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

The vast majority of universities operate their own law enforcement agencies, and campuses without one rely primarily on private security firms or local law enforcement agencies, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics data from 2011-12, the most recent available. In the 2011-2012 school year, more than 14,000 sworn police officers were working on campuses — a 10 percent increase in the number of full-time sworn personnel since the 2004-2005 school year, according to a survey by the U.S. Their official statements about what happened matched what was shown on Tensing’s body camera, and neither officer said in official interviews that he saw Tensing being dragged, according to Deters. Seventy-five percent of campuses used armed officers, up from 68 percent, and more than 80 percent of sworn officers were allowed to patrol or arrest people off campus. The family’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said in email Friday that they are “still concerned with the initial rendition of facts given by the officers,” but he said the family respects the grand jury’s decision.

Officers in his department at San Jacinto College in the Houston area are a mix of experienced and retired municipal officers, along with some recently out of the academy. The executive director of the FOP Ohio Labor Council, a division of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio, said Friday that the union filed a grievance on Tensing’s behalf Wednesday to try to get him reinstated. The union said the university violated Tensing’s employment contract by not giving him a pre-disciplinary conference and a copy of the formal charges, executive director Catherine Brockman said.

The need for campus policing arose during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when student-activists held massive civil rights and anti-war demonstrations. Those hired must undergo background checks, polygraphs, home visits and psychological screening. “You need to have a knowledge of how to interact with students. There are many different issues and federal guidelines that have to be followed that are very specific to campus policing,” he said in an interview, adding that municipal and campus police work closely together. “Sometimes UC police and Cincinnati police ride together in a car. Taylor said campus forces effectively initiated the community policing model that so many cities are now promoting as a string of police killings have thrown into sharp relief the strained relations between law enforcement and minority communities. “Campus officers are expected to be more interactive with their community, more responsive to the needs of the community,” Taylor said. “We specifically look for people who don’t have short fuses. Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier was shot and killed in 2013 while sitting in his cruiser by the two men who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing.

Last year, the California State University system, while not admitting fault, agreed to pay $2.5 million to the family of a student killed during a struggle with San Bernardino campus police. In North Dakota, the state Supreme Court ruled last month that a North Dakota State University officer did not have the authority to arrest a woman for drunken driving off campus.

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