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BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

Independent student content

BG Falcon Media

The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Though some may think the campus police give students some leeway in their actions, they are in fact real police – exercising the same authority as city police.

There is no difference between how campus and city police are trained, according to Chief James Wiegand, the Director of Public Safety.

“I think sometimes they [students] are not aware that the officers are fully sworn in,” he said. “They think they might be security officers. They have the authority of any other police officers in the state.”

University police operate under dual jurisdiction meaning they can work off campus or on, as can city police.

“We have a mutual aid agreement with the city that allows us to provide police services anywhere in Bowling Green,” Wiegand said. “The main purpose is to provide police function to the University.”

Students should be aware that they will be held accountable for their actions off campus, according to Angelita Bridges, staff attorney at student legal services.

“One of the misconceptions is they [students] don’t understand that campus police have the same dual jurisdiction of city police, and the fact that they can have criminal charges from either one,” she said.

Through a mutual aid agreement campus and city police, the University police operate in conjunction with local, state and federal police.

“If a student was off campus and observed in an incident we would contact the city police department,” Wiegand said.

Occasionally assistance may be needed from city police for serious calls or for special events, Wiegand said, but the campus and a couple blocks surrounding campus is their jurisdiction.

“Our responsibility, first and foremost is to the campus specifically,” he said. “We do patrol the areas adjacent to campus.”

Campus police enforce both University policy and the local, state and federal laws.

“By living in Bowling Green, you have to obey the laws of the city, regardless of whether you are a student or not,” Bridges said. “Because campus police has dual jurisdiction with the city they will enforce those laws as well.”

Within the campus jurisdiction, officers routinely have to deal with issues in the dormitories. Officers need a warrant to enter a student’s dorm room unless there are extenuating circumstances, such as an emergency situation or if a resident invites the officer into their room.

“Typically officers are not searching someone’s home and a dormitory is a home,” Bridges said. “The fourth amendment applies to students on campus as it applies to any citizen. University officials search rooms. These are private citizens and University employees who are acting.”

Officers work with hall staff in the extenuating situations.

“In most circumstances we work with the residence hall staff,” Wiegand said. “We may ask them to enter.”

When stopped by an officer in the dormitory, on campus or off, Wiegand offers some advice for students.

He asks for students to be cooperative, polite and answer their questions honestly.

“Try to be yourself, try not to be obnoxious, try to be polite and just answer honestly,” Wiegand said.

Students should try to avoid being nervous when speaking with an officer, Bridges said, adding that they can invoke their right to remain silent.

“If they’re ever in a situation where they are not sure [what their rights are], they should contact our office,” she said.

For some students the idea of cooperating with an officer is an easy one.

“I think they’re going to respect you as long as you are respecting them,” said Liv Witte, senior. “They are authority and you should do what they tell you. It’s not their job to be polite to us; it’s their job to make sure you don’t break the law.”

Officers too are trained to follow guidelines when approaching or stopping students.

“If they are stopped for any reason by an individual they [the officer] should provide a reason for why they were stopped and for identification,” Wiegand said. “Our University officers are University officials and students should provide an ID if requested.”

Certain conditions apply

Officers are only to give a student their Miranda rights if accused of a crime. As they would in any situation, students can exercise their right to remain silent.

Students have the right to question an officer’s actions.

“If there are concerns about how they were treated or how a situation was handled they can file a complaint against an officer,” Wiegand said.

The complaint will then be reviewed and investigated by Weigand or another supervising officer. The time it would take to investigate and process a complaint varies between each case, and depends on the number of people involved.

Weigand says complaints about officers don’t happen often but are taken seriously.

“In the eight years that I have been here, generally we’ve got a great group of students and at any time we have 15,000 people on campus, it’s like a small community,” Wiegand said. “We try to deal with them in a professional manner.”

Besides students filing complaints about officers, police can notify student discipline about a student’s behavior also.

“Our campus police are in a unique situation,” said Jill Carr, associate dean of students in the department of student life. “If they feel a student has violated the law and University policy then can make a referral to student discipline. It gives them a little more leeway than an officer working in a municipality.”

If students are cited by an officer they will have to answer to the law and the University’s code of conduct.

“Not only do they have to deal with the University aspect but also the criminal aspect,” Bridges said. “If campus police are brought in they could be under criminal charges. It can effect not only a student’s ability to stay in school but also their housing.”

Even with campus police exercising equal authority to city police, some feel campus police give students more flexibility.

“I think the city ones are more strict with us for the fact that we’re in their city,” said Leah Steffensky, sophomore.

On average seven to 10 students are referred to student discipline per week, Carr said.

The office of student life reported 605 referrals to student discipline during the 2004-2005 school year.

The most referrals came from the Bowling Green City Police Department at 41 percent, followed by the Campus Police at 29 percent and Residence Life at 22 percent.

The most common charges were underage use or possession of alcohol at 19 percent of all referrals, followed by use or possession of illegal drugs at 12 percent and disorderly conduct at nine percent.

According to Carr, 97 percent of students who are referred to student discipline admit they made a mistake and are responsible for their charges.

The remaining three percent ask for a hearing with the University Discipline Committee board.

The UDC board consists of at least three full-time faculty, six full-time students and three full-time administrative staff members.

Students have the right to have an advisor present at their hearing. The advisor can be anyone, including a friend or family member.

Moral support

However, the advisor is for moral support and cannot participate in the conversation, Carr said.

“Often University hearings are different than criminal hearings,” Bridges said. “They view it as a violation of student code to commit a crime and this is something students need to be aware of.”

Student discipline receives blotters from both city and campus police each morning, that are then reviewed. Depending on what a student was arrested or what they violated, they will either receive a letter in the mail for a minor violation or if the violation is more serious the student will be asked to come and meet with someone student discipline.

“There’s always two sides to an issue,” Carr said. “Based on that discussion with a student we decide whether to issue a code of conduct issue.”

Then sanctions may be imposed, Carr said, and will vary, with the exception of those for alcohol violations, which are specific.

While a code of conduct violation will be on a student’s record, according to the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act, of 1974 permission is needed from the student to release their records. If they are suspended from the court violation records are private.

Records are kept by the office of student discipline for seven years and then destroyed, Carr said.

If a student is expelled, a note will be on their transcript saying so.

“If a student engages in behavior that harms other individuals in this community or poses a partial threat to this community are grounds for suspension,” Carr said. “Expulsions are for those really serious situations where we would not want that person back on campus.”

Sevearl facets of the University policies are regarding the school and community.

“You are representative of this institution as long as you are a student,” Carr said. “We have an obligation to address issues that mar our reputation or deal with issues in the community.”

Students should be aware that the code of conduct states that students are responsible for their guests, and what they may do, on campus in particular. If a guest violates campus policy while here, the student who invited them will face consequences.

“More than likely you will be charged with a code of conduct violation,” Carr said.

Many of the 24 sworn officers on campus will refer students to student legal services if they have questions about their rights.

“Frequently if we are involved with students who are involved in an illegal or illicit activity, we will advise them to student legal services,” Wiegand said. “They are there to protect the rights of students and we are too.”

Because student legal services is an entity of the University, if students feel they have been violated by the school, they must seek outside legal representation.

“Our office does not provide representation for students against the University,” Bridges said.

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