SDSUPD must meet federal law requirements


Editorial Board

Issue: The SDSU Police Department failed on at least one instance of complying with the Clery Act, a federal law requiring police departments of colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to make police logs available to the public.

The Clery Act was signed into federal law in 1990 after Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her residence hall at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. The Clery Act is an example of open-government legislation. Some may wonder why the public availability of university police logs is important, but we believe, as citizens and college students, that they are vital to the safety and security of students on campuses across the nation.

Often times, if a serious crime is committed in a residence hall or on campus, people will not know exactly what happened. Rumors will spread, and students may be afraid, and with good reason. The situation is stressful. With access to actual police logs, students and the public can see exactly what happened. This allows for students to take the proper precautions as they see fit for their protection and safety.

It is also a matter of accountability. Whether a student attends a private or public school that falls under the power of the Clery Act, he or she is funding the university police via tuition and fees. A service that we pay for is one that needs our own oversight, and the Clery Act, along with open-record legislation in general, allows for just that.

We at The Collegian are not trying to attack the South Dakota University Police Department. They work hard at their extremely difficult job, and we cannot begin to express how much we appreciate everything they do to keep students safe. However, no one is above federal law, including SDSUPD.

We have to question, after SDSUPD failed to turn over police logs to a regular student, if some workers there are unaware of the federal law binding them to do so. SDUPD Police Chief Tim Heaton said the officer who denied a student the logs could have been a student officer; however, if this is the case, more education about the law is needed for those who are supposed to enforce it.

If a SDSUPD officer did knowingly and intentionally ignore the Clery Act by refusing to hand over police logs, then that officer not only broke a federal law and risked a fine up to $27,000, but the officer also acted in a negligent, irresponsible and dangerous manner in regard to students’ safety.

Stance: The SDSU Police Department must comply with the Clery Act on all occasions in which it applies. By not doing so, the department deprives students and the public information important to their safety.