Alice Lee, Christopher Healy, Riley Masterson, Anna Sebaly
Vol. 2 No. 2
The revolutionary rise of technology and information processing systems over the past few decades has made it alarmingly clear that the privacy of people around the world has never been more threatened. In an unprecedented wave of inventions that have changed how quickly and how far information can be sent and received, the question of where the boundaries should be drawn needs to be answered. This article aims to explore the tumultuous relationship between campus police and a student’s fundamental right to privacy. We will first examine cases of conflict throughout the nation historically, before narrowing it down to our community of Champaign-Urbana, and the greater Midwestern area. We hope to bring awareness to this matter in an analytical manner, and seek to address situations where student privacy was overlooked in favor of publicizing, what is viewed as pertinent, information. The purpose of this article is aimed at investigating the current relationship between students and campus police as well as methods or steps that can be taken to help ensure a more open and safe community for students.
Campus police have had a marked and strong presence at universities across the nation for multiple decades now. It should not be a surprise that putting a large number of young people together in a relatively small space results in certain reckless behavior that can sometimes reach the extreme of criminal activity. Though colleges have always had crime, campus security was not an official entity at universities until around the 1960s, when college police forces were implemented as a way to bridge the gap between students and law enforcement. The 1960s were a period of high tension in the United States, with many student protests sparking loud riots and potential violence on the site of college campuses around the country. This led to an increase in police presence on campus, and a call for colleges to create their own individual police departments. They were intended to focus specifically on addressing student safety concerns.
A crucial shift in the conversation occurred after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that has drawn a resurgence in examining the hard task of balancing student privacy with campus safety. The tragedy prompted widespread outrage and change, one of which included a move to increase further campus safety measures, and shifted the role of campus police to be more salient and authoritative. But with the increased presence of campus police comes the concern of balancing that with transparency and the protection of student privacy. Boundaries between university police and city police departments must be more clear to ensure the safe and private transmission of information among college students. This becomes complicated when we see that ensuring the safety and privacy of everyday citizens is being balanced against the need for information by more powerful forces, whether it be big tech or the government. The university police system seems to be an important player in the arena of privacy and transparency, especially in the social climate of today. There seems to be much confusion and misinformation concerning the different functions of campus police and the city police, as well as a concern over sensitive and personal information of arrests and crime reports being publicized. Increased transparency and access to information will deescalate tensions and create a better working relationship between students and their respective police forces.
III. Relevant Case Law
An interesting connection to explore regarding the topic of transparency among campus police is that of the student newspaper and local law enforcement. The former is responsible for reporting the news while the latter is obligated to keep the campus safe. When these interests come into conflict, the decided outcome speaks volumes about what should be considered a fundamentally protected right. In 1991, a Missouri district court ruled that a public university’s student newspaper may obtain and publish a criminal investigation and reports conducted by the campus police system. It was held that such documents are not considered “education records” within the protection of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, but rather, was information that could be shared with the public. The intention of such legislation is to ensure a written record of decisions made, and to make it available for public examination. The information sought by the newspaper is not consistent with the kind of information FERPA was designed to protect. Reports concerning criminal occurrences on campus should be released on the grounds that the records were subject to MORA, the Missouri Open Records Act that obligated all public governmental bodies to provide all public records upon request.
The ruling in Bauer v. Kincaid is a rare occurrence of what should happen when transparency of information comes into conflict with the argument that sharing criminal investigations would lead to a less safe campus. In the case of liability and student records, the district court of Missouri decided to uphold the principle of one’s right to the freedom of information. Bauer v. Kincaid also drew a distinction separating student data that is protected by FERPA and criminal investigation reports that can be publicized. Education institutions have a fine line to walk when evaluating the best manner to handle student data and to protect their privacy. The context of situations is important to consider, but the difference between educational records and criminal records has been made clear.
IV. History of Policing: Movements & Transparency
A historical account tracing the movements related to policing and the juxtaposition of transparency provides evidence regarding the importance of blending the two together. A contributing factor that led to increased scrutiny of police actions is that of the internet and technology. The advent of television precluded Facebook Live and Twitter. Civil rights and anti-war protests were photographed and televised thoroughly. The police brutality in Birmingham, Alabama remains a notorious example. Protesters, including children, were subject to dogs and fire hoses. Meanwhile, protestors of the Vietnam War, often students, also suffered violence. Notably, the National Guardsman sent to Kent State University shot and killed four college students. Media again played a role in causing outrage towards the violence: a photo of a woman screaming above one of the students killed won a Pulitzer Prize. The image led Americans to question whether they should trust the government and law enforcement.
In 1992, an African-American man named Rodney King fled from police. He was then caught and beaten by four police officers while roughly a dozen other police officers stood by and watched. Eventually, a jury made up of a majority of Caucasians found the officers not
guilty. The lack of repercussions for the blatant abuse of power on the part of the police sparked riots throughout Los Angeles.
The issue of police brutality in regard to the African-American community was raised again with the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, among many others. The murders of these men are significant in and of themselves. However, a noticeable trend in the fuel for backlash is the existence of video footage of their deaths. #BlackLivesMatter grew from a hashtag to a movement, with the hashtag being used almost 30 million times in roughly five years. The use of technology was key in the development of a major social movement in modern America.
Technology can be used to keep law enforcement accountable. Yet, it can also be used to exploit people or violate their privacy. Popular television shows such as “Cops” and “Live PD” follow police officers around the country as they serve their communities. “Cops” blurred suspects’ faces unless they signed a release form allowing themselves to be aired on television. “Live PD”, however, takes advantage of privacy laws.
When people are in public places, they can be filmed and even shown on television without their permission. “Live PD” is aired with a lag of “several minutes” in which some people featured on the show are presented with waivers to allow themselves to be aired on television. “Live PD” does offer waivers to some people, but it does not obtain permission from everyone used on the show. While this practice is legal, it is of questionable ethics.
Another increasingly-relevant aspect of technology and privacy is the release of dashboard camera (dash-cam) footage recorded by police officers. The lethal shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014 became one of the detriments to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s incumbency. After the video was released, there were calls for Mayor Emanuel to resign. Other government officials in Chicago lost re-elections or were fired. However, the video itself was released against the wishes of the victim’s family. Journalist Brandon Smith filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which was enacted in Illinois in 1989. It allows the public to request the public records of various government bodies within the state. The national government enacted its own version of the FOIA much earlier, in the late 1960s. Smith claimed that he filed the lawsuit to increase awareness of and pressure for police reform. Yet, when is police transparency and accountability too far?
There is the question of when transparency is excessive. Starting with the photo at Kent State and culminating in the dash-cam video of Laquan McDonald’s death, modern advancements in technology have opened Americans to new realities and stirred discontent. Yet, while technology can be used to violate citizens’ privacy, it can also serve as a tool to defend their rights and keep government officials, such as police officers, accountable.
Like thousands of other campuses, UIUC has its own police force, the University of Illinois Police Department (UIPD). Modern campus policing grew out of the Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests on university campuses during the 1960s and 1970s. University police forces became more prevalent after the mass shooting at the University of Virginia Tech. It is now estimated that around three fourths of college campuses in the United States have a designated university police force.
Surprisingly, about 80 percent of campus police officers can patrol not only the designated campus, but the surrounding areas as well. Campus police are usually made up of some “sworn” police officers who have the power to make arrests and some who are not sworn. These factors make it challenging to manage campus police, as they are not restricted to the campus itself, and all of them do not have the power to make arrests. However, this is because campus police are often used to maintain safety in and around a campus, whereas local and state police are more often tasked with enforcing the law. The Atlantic found that whereas the amount of crime on campuses decreased from 2004-2011, more campus police officers were sworn in. Again, this is due to university police being tasked with student safety as opposed to preventing and responding to crime.
V. Policing in Connection to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The main argument of this paper is that there should be stricter and clearer boundaries between campus police and local police. This argument relates directly to the University of Illinois Police Department (UIPD), the Urbana Police Department, and the Champaign Police Department. Campus police and local police play very different roles, and yet, we have yet to identify the strict differences in daily procedures outside of guidebooks and rules that apply to each department (any of the four) uniquely. This is exemplified by glancing through their respective websites. Urbana is estimated to have a population of a little over 42,000 as of July 2018 by the U.S. Census Bureau. Champaign is estimated to have roughly double the population. The University of Illinois itself has a current student body of over 50,000. As discussed above, many campus police can patrol outside of the campus area. This complicates the boundaries between campus and local police officers. The online presence of the campus police also raises legitimate questions and concerns.
Before we begin examining police activity in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign area, we’ll articulate the divisions of enforcement within the community and the expectations and processes each department enforces. We will examine all four branches of law enforcement in the Champaign-Urbana community to better understand the Campus Police and whether they are necessary, a nuisance or a formal signal to the community that there is safety wherever they are in the area. Then, we will make general comparisons and similarities between the various police departments in this area and end with a note on what this means for current and future University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students and community members.
VI. University Police vs. City Police Forces
Upon entering the campus grounds, the police presence is felt and seen as multiple vehicles sit on main points of entry to campus. This is intentional, as the UIPD works hard to make their presence felt and seen. They consider visibility and presence to be the key to success at deterring possible crimes and signaling to the community they care. In fact, campus police visibility was discovered to be significantly important to student’s perception of police, a crucial tenet of what makes a campus police force successful: student perception and legitimacy. The Department of Justice in 2015 recommended that Campus Police should “maintain focus on the importance of collaboration, and be visible in the community,” stating the benefits to both community members and police when police get to know members of the community. Interactions between police and the community can build mutual trust which is important to addressing problems and reducing crime. The consistent relationship between the UIPD, CPD and UPD is their focus on community safety, maintenance of order and cross-departmental data accessibility. However, the multi-jurisdictional task forces that connect these three departments focuses on limited areas of law enforcement that often are not represented on campus but more so in the campus community like The Street Crimes Task Force, Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit and K9 Unit. The Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit and K9 Unit have rarely ever been deployed. This leads us to ask, what unique purposes does the UIPD serve the University, the campus and the larger Urbana-Champaign community? The true linkage between these forces is their public sharing of data and overlapping areas of jurisdiction, framed in the discursive strategy to claim community values and safety require multiple Policing Departments.
VII. UIPD Composition & Functionality
The UIPD provides next to no unique services to the area that the other forces do not already provide, except, direct officers located at key University facilities and non-police staff to address a few needs unique to the campus, like specially trained detectives to support and care for sexual assault survivors, alcohol safety classes and first responders to 911 calls on campus. As stated on the UIPD’s website in the ‘About’ section,
“All police officers, and particularly those in the Crime Prevention unit, work not only to stop crime, but also in an educational capacity to empower individuals to take care of themselves and others. Those efforts are particularly important on a college campus, where students may be away from home for the first time and experiencing a new environment. Officers work directly with new and international students to introduce them to campus. The department offers programs like alcohol safety classes and sexual assault awareness programming.”
The importance of this Unit, the largest Unit within the UIPD, is to help new and international students to adjust to the new environment, and yet, the continual efforts in the community are not discussed. By highlighting the efforts of the UIPD targeting new members to the community, this signals a lack of continued effort to those in their second year or life time residents of the campus area. Again, a performative action on the part of the Department and less so a substantive initiative benefiting the community at large. The UIPD has sent officers to China before the school year begins to prepare these students for the environment they are about to enter, and after this, they pay only lip service to this community with tangible efforts to kindle the relationship past a presentation and speech about the Department and the campus. After these international students arrive on campus, the only visible evidence of the UIPD are the patrol cars constantly circling various points of the campus. The patrol operations are considered the “backbone” and then the Compliance Team Members handle legal matters and ensure that the Department follows legal mandates. Moreover, the proactive policing the UIPD generally demonstrates is their constant visibility on all corners of campus, not substantive organizational plans to police proactively.
Common knowledge leads us to conclude that campus officers are necessary to maintain order and peace, but at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, order and peace are maintained through jurisdictional linkages and joint task forces the Champaign and Urbana police offer. Aside from staff members in the UIPD who work with university departments and health services, do we truly need to have such a large force present with guns and SWAT team capabilities? How do we justify the expanding power of the UIPD and its historical goal to mirror the powerful police departments of major cities? In the University of Illinois’ Annual Security & Fire Safety Report, we read that “The University Police Department was successful in obtaining a Level Tier II status.” In 2012, the University Police Department became the first ILEAP-accredited department for a college campus. It is difficult to find the purpose this serves besides a self-congratulatory demonstration of a police force created for students to widen legal trust and community values, but openly seeks to be as militarized and standardized as City Police Forces in Illinois. Stated openly on the police department’s ‘Who We Are’ tab,
“Our officers have full police authority just like any other police department. UIPD is fully accredited, and we offer all the traditional police services — but unlike traditional police departments, those services are uniquely tailored to meet the needs of our university in a community-based manner meant to improve and maintain a healthy climate and quality of campus life.”
Evidence of “services…uniquely tailored to meet the ends of our university” are yet to be found as their traditional police services reflect the same traditional police services of the Champaign Police Department and the Urbana Police Department. No variables can measure this improvement of quality of campus life, but the Department continues to expand its jurisdiction and power in the area, backed by the gravitas of the state of Illinois’ flagship public university and all the luxuries it offers.
We contend the creation and militarization of the UIPD is more symbolic than substantial and tailored to quell anxious family’s of students who are releasing their children to a new environment. In compliance with Illinois state laws and the Clery Act, the UIPD has continued to expand its power in security while failing to expand its community outreach, relationships and initiatives that directly benefit the students, not just the image of the UIPD.
Examining the University of Illinois’ home page, we analyzed the ‘Parent’ tab to examine the most popular resources parents investigate on the University’s page. Campus Safety, unsurprisingly, was the most popular resource, ahead of Undergraduate Admissions, Pay My Bill and even Parent & Family Programs. Appeasing student families is paramount to the
University’s administration and the University of Illinois’ Police Department gains legitimacy through capitalizing on this familial anxiety. Traditional police departments can provide nearly the same amount of security and community relations as their University counterparts without the guise of special positioning as THE community enforcer.
The different roles played by campus and local police is exemplified by their respective websites. The UIPD lists “SafeWalks, SafeRides & Student Patrol; Sexual Violence Resources; Orders of Protection; Mental health crisis intervention; Safety Classes & Programs; Talk to a Safety Expert; Campus Safety Tips; Stay Informed; Fingerprint Services; Protection of Minors; Request police records.” The Champaign Police Department lists, “Special Event Application, Alarm Permits & Renewals, BEST Security Training, Emergency Notification for Businesses, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request, Request Copy Of A Police Report, Parking Permit, Fingerprint Services, Expungement & Sealing of Records, Drug Drop Off, Background Check.” The Urbana Police Department, likely due to its lower population, does not have a dedicated website, but rather, a page on the website for the city of Urbana. Comparing the websites of the UIPD and the Champaign Police shows that there are some similarities, such as “fingerprint services.” However, the UIPD seems to be more tailored to issues relating to students. This is exemplified by the focus on sexual assault and the inclusion of advice for remaining safe.
The UIPD published a “Year in Review” report for 2016 to 2017. According to this report, when drinking violation tickets were written for students, they were through the cities of Champaign or Urbana. There was a much higher percentage of students being referred to discipline through the U of I as opposed to being arrested or given citations. This complicates the distinction between students and the UIPD, blurring the line between the UIPD serving the University or the community. When we add in the two other city police forces into the conversation, the lines become even more blurred and difficult to discern in regards to legitimate jurisdiction and authority.
VIII. UIPD Police Blotter
The UIPD publishes a police blotter detailing daily crimes that are reported in the community. The UIPD has a page on their website listing all of the crimes that have been reported each day. Students and faculty members usually remain unnamed, while people who have committed crimes that are not associated with the university are named. However, when students are named, they are the perpetrators of a crime. This could be an effort to protect students from peers who could pose a threat, but it brings into question the issue of privacy. With technology, a Google search could bring up a student’s criminal history as posted by the UIPD police blotter. In this case, protecting the safety of students is in direct conflict with safeguarding the identity of the student who committed the crime. The publication of such sensitive information could have severe long-term implications for the young adult involved, and therein lies the dilemma of deciphering when the line crosses from protecting student safety to invading student privacy.
Fig 1.1 displays a breakdown of crimes by category as committed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Fall 2019 semester. The highest crime rate category is that of drugs & alcohol, which encompasses the crimes of liquor-underage and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The interaction between protestors and police was explored earlier in this article. There have been confrontations between the UIPD and protesters, but none were as fatal as Kent State or escalated as intensely as the Rodney King protests. However, in 1992, there was a violent altercation between police and students. Latinx students and allies from various groups organized to advocate for more recruitment, representation, and retention of members of the Latinx community as students, staff, administration, and faculty members. The students also wanted a dedicated Latinx Studies program at the U of I. Initially, the University police themselves dragged protesting students out of the building they were occupying. The following week, students again occupied a University building, with the permission of the University administration. This time, however, the UIPD was accompanied by police from multiple departments dressed in riot gear. Students were violently removed from the building, with one student throwing up blood after an officer used a stun gun to force his removal from the building. The protests were featured in a documentary posted to YouTube that multiple recent articles on the subject have linked to. A rally in 2017 was held to commemorate the 1992 protest, as well as to unite students of color on campus.
The examples of alcohol arrests/citations versus referrals and the suppression of protests in 1992 contributes to the confusion associated with the University Police. In some instances the UIPD refers students to the University for punishment, and at others it violently represses their First Amendment Rights. The University and the UIPD itself should be more transparent and more consistent in their actions. This would instill more trust and cooperation between the student body and the UIPD.
IX. The Clery Report
The Clery Act mandates that all colleges and universities receiving federal funding will publish an annual security report (ASR) to all university students and employees every October 1st. The ASR has campus crime statistics over the past three years, and lists details about how campus safety is improved. ASRs must also have policy statements about crime reporting, campus facility security and access, law enforcement authority, incidence of alcohol and drug use, and the prevention of/response to sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, and stalking.The Clery Report mandates linkages and coordination between the University Police and the University it services as studies have shown that the alignment of campus police and university goals is paramount “because the success and health of the college or university depends on the organization’s effectiveness in accomplishing goals aligned with an educational function.” The UIPD states that their responsibilities include all of the above, while also maintaining a daily crime log and maintaining a separate fire daily crime log and an annual fire safety report.
The Clery Act details 4 distinct crime categories that are to be covered in their ASR statistics:
- Criminal Offenses: Criminal homicide, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson,
- Hate Crimes: larceny-theft, simple assault, intimidation, destruction/damage/vandalism of property,
- VAWA offenses: domestic violence, dating violence, stalking,
- Arrests & Referrals for Disciplinary Action: weapons law violations, drug abuse violations, liquor law violations.
The UIPD is assisted by ‘Clery Liaisons’, or ‘Campus Security Authorities’ (CSAs), who are legally required to report incidents as outlined by the Clery Act. CSAs include but are not limited to the UIPD, security guards, student patrol officers, security staff, student ID checkers for the Division of Campus Recreation, deans, student affairs professionals, student housing staff, athletic/assistant directors, coaches, student activities coordinators, Title IX coordinators, student judicial officers, faculty/staff advisors to student organizations, and others.
The University of Illinois publishes a Clery Report daily, covering the past 60 days in crime. To specifically examine crime involving University students, only crime occurring in residence halls will be explored. The 2019 fall semester data has been collected and examined by residence halls. Several issues are apparent upon reading the collected data:
- Violent crimes against other persons have very little information attached. The reason for this is not apparent. In all nine crimes with a vague location given, such as “Residence Hall” or a block of residence halls (ie; “Florida Avenue Residence Halls”), 7 of those were violent crimes against other persons.
- The individual Halls are not clearly reported. At different points, the report refers to “Lincoln Allen Residence Hall” as a location, and also refers to the individual “Leonard” and “Sheldon” halls as locations.
Fig 1.2 displays a breakdown of locations where crimes occurred in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign residential system in the Fall 2019 semester. The residence hall group where the largest percentage of crimes took place is Ikenberry, an area of campus that includes the largest block of dorms at the University, covering nine different residence halls.
X. Vision & Mission: Goals of the Department
The mission statements offered by the UIPD, CPD and UPD are nearly identical with all three departments utilizing key terms like “community-based”, “integrity”, “respect” and “secure environment.” Each department offers their own spin on what Police Departments strive to achieve, with the UIPD mission stating their duty is “…to promote a safe and secure environment where education, research and public service can flourish.” The vision statements are even more performative and rhetorical, as all three are nearly identical. Below we include the vision statements from each Department’s website:
Vision of UIPD: “To continue to be a leader in policing and public service to strengthen our position as an integral part of the university and the extended community.”
Vision of CPD: “To foster positive police-citizen partnerships that help provide safety education, crime reduction, and improvement to the overall quality of life in our community.”
VIsion of UPD: “To continually strive for excellence in the performance of its duties through education, training and collaboration with its citizens.”
If the role of campus police is to foster a safe and secure learning environment, what do the value statements of the Champaign or Urbana Police offer that the UIPD uniquely can
provide? Are these not overlapping and identical values and missions, only separated by whom the Departments report to? Mission statements and values aside, even the composition of these departments are nearly identical and offer the same organizational hierarchies and structures. Atop is the Chief of the Department, and directly below it sits the Deputy Chief, Administrative Assistant and the Committee on Relations and Finance. As you can see in the tables, the structures of these departments are not unique, as we’d expect the UIPD to offer something more than the expected leadership positions that all Police departments contain. And for the non-sworn employees of the UIPD, they lack the same training and preparation sworn officers receive, jeopardizing these employees to handle situations they were not trained for. A noticeable difference between the UIPD and the municipal forces are the higher wages UIPD offer their officers and the inability to file an anonymous report with the UIPD for an unexplainable reason. The University Police Department, unless otherwise prescribed by law, does not take anonymous police reports. The exception related to anonymous reporting involves Campus Security Authorities. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign permits victims or witnesses to report crimes to CSAs on a voluntary, anonymous basis but encourages individuals who report crime to provide identifying information. Coordination between municipal and university law enforcement is key to campus safety, but even then, coordination in the context of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is weak.
Coordination exists only through task forces, state laws requiring cross department law enforcement efforts and surface level community initiatives targeted more at elevating the community’s perception of law enforcement in general and less about fostering a true relationship between law enforcement and the wider community. Events in both Champaign and Urbana focused on community policing are rarely attended by the public and never attended by students. These examples of limited coordination are saved by the only verifiable linkage that ties the “community” together behind these three departments: The sharing of data mandated by the Clery Act and the A.R.M.S. program used to manage police records electronically. Data and records are the true knot that binds these identical departments who have struggled to define themselves individually outside of blank statements of community care and half-baked efforts to include the community in their policing.
XI. A.R.M.S. Program and Data Sharing
The A.R.M.S. program, a threatening if not brow raising acronym that stands for Area-wide Records Management System, is the software package developed by Urbana and shared with the UIPD and CPD in order to interact and file reports in one singular location. But this program also includes the members that are not a part of the campus community like the Rantoul Police Department (located 25 minutes from campus). This system has a policy board, representing the Chief of Police or an assigned delegate from the department. They meet quarterly in Urbana and are open to the public, but attendance is historically limited to law enforcement members and University staff. What seems to be glaringly missing are the students in this program and student input.
With data easily accessible by multiple departments, including a department with no jurisdiction or activity on campus (Rantoul), the rights of student privacy and private information are of serious concern. In addition to this data protection concern, is the revelation that the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois has the power to enter into contracts on behalf of the University of Illinois. The Board of Trustees is incapable of adequately representing the student body and staff of the University, yet, it is afforded the power to enter legal agreements with police departments whom in turn control the private information and records of the community from the hundreds of untraceable police computers resting on the desks of the neighborhood cop.
As we have examined, there is no significant difference positioning the University of
Illinois’ Police Department in stark contrast from the municipal forces in the area. Discursive in statements and community actions, the UIPD does not include students in key decisions or programs aimed at fostering a community that values education and research over the surveillance state that the University’s Board of Trustees approved with the passage of A.R.M.S. These departments offer the same rigorous training, weapons, processes and procedures with data sharing and geographical location ensuring cross-partnerships.
XII. Campus Safety vs. Student Privacy
The existence of a university police force serves to ensure the safety and security of students, a feat many would argue should be the prime focus of campus officers, regardless of the invasive measures they may need to take. It would be remiss for universities to completely disregard the constitutional provision of the freedom of privacy, and although student privacy exists at a lower degree, campus police should not have unchecked power and jurisdiction over the release of information. Historically, the relationship between campus police and the student body has been fraught and tense, as a 2006 study measuring campus racial climates found that animosity among students toward campus police were exacerbated by racist remarks made by officers and a lack of communication. While it may be a delicate balance protecting safety interests or the privacy of students, it would be best for everyone’s sake for an equilibrium between the two to be reached.
Shifting the attention of campus police to internal matters would shine a light on the pervasive issue of a lack of transparency within the police system, overshadowing the good of the unit when the community it protects can’t even trust them. While there may be certain matters that are meant only for law enforcement to know, it has been found that creating a program dedicated to accountability and transparency led to improvements in the Northwestern University Police Department. Gaining trust oftentimes requires relinquishing control, and university police departments must realize students want to be kept aware of the problems in their backyard while retaining a semblance of personal privacy. Catching crime and enforcing university policies are important aspects of any college campus, but it would be prudent to also remember the detrimental ramifications of over-publicizing student affairs. The boundary between being transparent and being invasive has to be solidified and clear. Problems arise when students feel as though their privacy is being threatened, and this division in the campus community would only contribute to tearing it apart, not building it up.
XIII. Future Implications for Illinois
The role of campus police varies among states, but Illinois law allows for both private and public institutions of higher education to establish police departments that have the same powers as local municipal police. As stated in 110 ILCS 305 – University of Illinois Act, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois “…may appoint persons to be members of the University of Illinois Police Department. Members of the Police Department shall be peace officers and as such have all powers possessed by policemen in cities, and sheriffs…” Private institutions derive the same power from 110 ILCS 1020 – Private College Campus Police Act, which grants equally extensive powers to private campus police.
With how much authority and jurisdiction campus police have, lawmakers are seeking more transparency and accountability among the police forces. In 2015, representatives in the Illinois General Assembly proposed a bill mandating that private institutions, like the University of Chicago, release information about their police departments’ actions. The legislation demanded that private campus police forces be held to the same reporting rules as city police departments. Under current Illinois law, the University of Chicago is not required to disclose arrest reports, traffic stop data, or information concerning its off-campus patrols because it is a private institution. The bill did not garner much support or enthusiasm in the Senate, and didn’t make it past committee, but the proposal attracted many student advocates who began to push for more transparency. Students are demanding an accountable and transparent police department. It is important to address these issues because the relationship between students and their police is a tenuous balance that needs to be handled with tact and care. It will not work to separate the two entities from one another. Students are no longer satisfied with only receiving the inadequate crime logs the police decide to publish; they are demanding to know more about what is happening on their campus. As an entity designed to instill stability and peace for university students, more transparency would go a long way in re-defining the presence of campus police as an ally, not an enemy.
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