Access to crime logs denied

Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown

SDSU’s Police Department recently passed its audit by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the annual Clery Report but has since failed to provide log information to a member of the public.

A student was recently denied access to SDSUPD crime logs, violating federal law.

Under the Clery Act, a federal law that has been in place since 1990, all colleges and universities in the U.S. that participate in federal financial aid programs are required to provide crime logs upon request. Crime logs are incidents reported to campus police and include all crimes reported.

The Clery Act states that logs must include the “nature, date, time and general location of each crime” and must be publicly available during normal business hours. “Students and employees (of the university) and the general public such as parents or members of the local press may access it.”

On Jan. 20, a student who asked to remain anonymous went to SDSUPD and requested the crime logs from that week.

“They told me that crime logs were not open to the public, and they never give them to the public,” said the source. “They told me that only The Collegian was allowed to see them, but that I could read them in The Collegian if I wanted to.”

The SDSUPD reports that The Collegian publishes on a weekly basis are not the actual crime logs. SDSUPD provides The Collegian with weekly statistics on how many crimes occurred each week. They are not the actual logs that include the nature, date, time and general location of the crime.

Whether or not the officer working at SDSUPD on Jan. 20 was unaware of the requirements of the Clery Act or was following a SDSUPD policy is unknown.

“Most of my full-time officers should know that the logs are public,” said Tim Heaton, SDSUPD police chief. “It may have been a student officer who told the person they couldn’t have (the crime log).”

Some SDSU administrators say that they have no objections with providing crime logs to students.

“I have no problem with us reporting (logs),” said Marysz Rames, vice president for student affairs. “Parents need to know. ? That’s what Clery does for us.”

The Collegian made attempts to contact Heaton on Jan. 19, 20 and 21 and left multiple messages.

On Jan. 21 at 7:17 p.m., Heaton returned the reporter’s call and said he would provide her with the requested crime log. On past occasions The Collegian has been denied the logs.

The logs were available and picked up from the SDSUPD station on Jan. 22 by a Collegian reporter.

Although SDSUPD agreed to provide the crime logs to The Collegian, the anonymous member of the public who requested them on Jan. 20 was told they could not see them.

“It is unfortunate that members of the public have such barricades when it comes to getting the police logs,” said Dave Bordewyk, general manager for the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

This must have been a “miscommunication by someone,” Heaton said.

In comparison, the Brookings Police Department is not required by law to provide police logs because they are not university-affiliated.

However, The Collegian was provided with information from the Brookings crime logs on the day of the request.

Brookings Police Chief Jeff Miller asked The Collegian reporter which day of the week in the logs the reporter would like to see and if the person was looking for a specific incident.

A member of the public did go into the Brookings Police Department and was denied access to the log.

Tamara Parliament, a junior advertising major who requested the logs from the Brookings PD, said she was told they could not give the crime logs out to anyone.

Unlike SDSUPD, Brookings PD is not required to provide the logs upon request. They can release them at their discretion.

According to South Dakota law, police logs are “not confidential criminal justice information, and may be released to the public at the discretion of the executive of law enforcement agency involved, unless the information contains intelligence or identity information that would jeopardize an ongoing investigation.”

In addition to providing crime logs upon request, the second portion of the Clery Act states that all university police departments are required to publish an annual report by Oct. 1.

According to the Clery Act, the report contains three years’ worth of crime statistics and certain security policy statements including “sexual assault policies that assure basic victims’ rights, the law enforcement authority of campus police and where students should go to report crimes.”

The act requires the report to include crimes from seven major categories with several subcategories.

The first is Criminal Homicide broken down by murder and non-negligent manslaughter and negligent manslaughter.

The second is sex offenses broken down by forcible sex offenses (including rape) and non-forcible sex offenses.

Other categories include robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson.

After SDSUPD published its Clery Report for this year, the U.S. Department of Education did a three-day audit of SDSU’s reporting in relation to the Clery Act.

“The audit was done because we have a licensed police department on campus,” said Matt Aschenbrener, SDSU’s registrar and associate vice president for enrollment management.

SDSUPD passed its annual audit done by the U.S. Department of Education.

Aschenbrener went on to say that the University Police Department was told by the auditors that they were actually “over-reporting,” which is a good thing.

“We’ve had some positive feedback from the Department of Education,” Aschenbrener said.

News Editor Emma DeJong contributed to this report.