Campus police are capable, but ill-equipped with resources

By Gus Bode

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to the Guest Column, “Colleges: Don’t bury rape allegations,” that appeared in the Aug. 29 issue of the Daily Egyptian. Incidents similar to the ones set forth in the editorial at private institutions such as the Marquette campus police department, that under state law, is required to notify the city police, and Notre Dame are unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Nor, however, should the handling of the incidents that occurred on those campuses be considered as the standard by which all campus law enforcement agencies are measured. Doing so ignores the excellent work performed daily by thousands of campus law enforcement professionals.

In my more than 25 years’ experience in campus law enforcement, it has been my privilege and honor to work with well-trained professional campus law enforcement officers, here and at other universities across the country, who conduct comprehensive and fair investigations of any alleged sex crimes that are reported to us. These investigations are turned over to the state’s attorney for prosecutorial consideration, along with consideration of what the survivor seeks before the ultimate decision is made by that office to move forward with prosecution. It is unfair and incorrect to assume that a lack of prosecution means that an inadequate investigation was conducted.

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The editorial’s author suggests that “many rape cases are difficult prosecutions on campus or off.” Yet, somehow better investigations will be done if the campus police “quickly hand allegations of rape and other sex crimes to local authorities, who generally have greater resources and greater independence to investigate.” While we enjoy an excellent relationship with the Carbondale Police Department, I doubt they would agree with the editorial that they are flush with resources to the extent that they need additional cases to investigate. In fact, I contend that because we are responsible for controlling our own investigations and we are able to dedicate the resources necessary to conduct thorough investigations, we are better situated to conduct the investigations. Arguably, I contend that it is exactly the process of disowning the investigation by “handing it off” that promotes avoiding responsibility for completing a quality investigation.

Another statement in the editorial suggests that universities should “make sure campus police are well-trained to stabilize a situation in which a sexual assault is alleged,” including “making sure the alleged victim gets prompt medical attention and some immediate measure of security.” It seems to me that if universities make sure campus police are well trained, then it seems they are taking the steps necessary to ensure competent investigations. In fact, as with most crimes, the initial work completed at the outset of an investigation (including evidence collection and preservation) is in fact critical to the entire investigation, so why is it necessary to hand off the work to another agency at this point?

If additional assistance is necessary from other local, state,and federal resources, we are not opposed to seeking their assistance. As for the suggestion that campus police departments are subject to university administrative influence to “bury” allegations of sex crimes, my experience has been exactly the opposite concerning incidents of sex crimes reported to this department.

In addition, many universities, including SIUC have multiple support systems in place for sex crime survivors to help them work through these experiences. Some of these resources available on our campus include the Counseling Center, the Health Service, the Wellness Center, and Saluki Cares. Universities are the best resources for students in need of assistance. At a time when competition for students is fierce, for some universities that are the exception, there is a desire to “bury” incidents of crime, particularly sex crimes in the hopes of promoting the ideal of safe campus. I disagree with this approach and argue that this is exactly the time that university administrators need to commit resources to their campus law enforcement department, commit to professional and well-trained officers, commit to trusting them to do the job they are capable of performing, and then demand they that they do it.

Todd Sigler

Director of SIUC Department

of Public Safety

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