SIU turns film confiscation investigation over to state

By Gus Bode

The state will investigate the seizure of a photojournalism student’s film by SIUC police, a University official said Thursday.

The Office of the Executive Inspector General will look into the incident at the administration’s request. University spokeswoman Sue Davis said the administration did not want SIUC police to scrutinize the conduct of fellow employees.

Matthew Bowie, a junior studying photojournalism from Kildeer, was riding his bicycle past SIUC police officers Sept. 14 as they made an arrest outside of Quigley Hall.

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After he stopped to take pictures, police demanded he give them his film under threat of suspension or arrest, Bowie said. The film was returned to him the next day with several frames fogged by exposure to light.

After the incident, SIUC Police Chief Todd Sigler said he could not release information until his department finished examining the incident. Sigler withheld all comments Thursday about the status of his investigation.

“I’m not allowed to comment on it according to the laws of the Inspector General’s Office,” Sigler said.

The office, which is responsible for investigating alleged wrongful acts by public universities and other state offices, operates under extreme confidentiality. According to its Web site, law prohibits it from releasing any information about unfinished investigations.

The office would not confirm if it was investing the incident.

Two weeks ago, School of Journalism officials met with Sigler and requested that the administration clarify its film confiscation policy.

When administrators did not comment, James Kelly, a photojournalism professor, said he filed a Freedom of Information Act request a week later to find out if the University even had a policy. The request is a federal law granting public access to government agency information. Kelly has yet to receive a response.

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“I do not understand why the University will not come out with a policy statement,” Kelly said. “It leaves me wondering if the administration believes this is proper behavior.”

Kelly said the seizure, as well as the University’s reluctance to clarify the rules, is chilling for not just journalism students but for all students.

The University community disagrees with the action taken, Kelly said. He cited statements made by journalism professors, as well as the student government, as proof of opposition.

“I was hopeful the investigation would be concluded this week,” Kelly said. “Obviously, they’re not going to conclude an investigation.”

Bowie has been unsuccessfully trying to obtain a copy of the police report since the incident occurred. He said his priority is finding out why the police treated him that way, but he would also like an apology.

“Even if the officer just approached me and said, ‘Hey man, I’m sorry about what happened,'” Bowie said. “That’s it. That’s all I want.”

Reporter Zack Quaintance can be reached at [email protected]

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