If legislation currently before a City Council committee passes, it will grant campus police departments the authority to develop a memorandum of understanding with the Metropolitan Police Department to give those departments legal jurisdiction on the city streets that run through and adjacent to their campuses. The intent is not to “allow more student violations to be kept in house.” UPD and MPD officers currently have discretion in how they handle each incident that they respond to and for GW, as well as the other college campuses in the city, we simply have more options at our disposal. This is not a bad thing.
What’s more, if each college campus in the city processed every minor criminal offense, the U.S. Attorney’s office would need to double or triple its staff size. If MPD officers processed every minor offense, the same would likely occur.
UPD currently patrols the public streets within the campus boundaries and we deal with incidents that involve students because we are University officials. The difficulty we face is when we have non-GW affiliated people come into the Foggy Bottom area and commit crimes or minor violations on public property. We have no legal authority to deal with those situations. They do not have to follow our direction when we are acting in our capacity as police officers or as University officials. In those cases, we need to call MPD to deal with the individuals, even for minor problems like noise complaints. The legislation will streamline the process for dealing with complaints and will allow MPD and UPD to come to agreement about various issues of concern in the area.
High-ranking MPD officials have said they do not foresee any changes in the way they staff the police service areas based on this law. We do not want to see less of MPD. In fact, we recently worked with MPD to re-start our joint patrol program. The University also donates a Community Policing Center to MPD (at 520 22nd St.). We are trying to encourage their presence in Foggy Bottom.
Our officers are very well trained; in fact, they are some of the best-trained campus police officers on the East Coast. We are currently in the process of becoming an accredited police department through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. This is the same accreditation process MPD is going through right now. Less than 10 percent of the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the country are accredited.
Ronald Cocome was quoted in the article (“Bill may empower UPD,” Feb. 6, p. 1) as saying “the University is using joint jurisdiction to conceal the scope of offenses committed by students.” That could not be further from the truth. The fact is we publish a daily crime log, which is available on our Web site. It includes every crime that is reported to UPD, even the crimes that are reported to us that occur outside of the Foggy Bottom area. Today, you can find every crime that has been reported to UPD since August 1999, regardless of whether the subject was arrested or referred to our Student Judicial Services office. We also publish annual crime statistics on our Web site as far back as 1998. We could not be more open about what we are dealing with on campus. We go beyond the requirements of the federal laws that govern the disclosure of crime statistics.
Mr. Cocome also states, “(GW tries) to make the University appear as if it is an important part of the community.” The fact is that we are an important part of the community. GW is the largest private employer in the city and spends endless amounts of money and time on community service projects for the city. I could go on and on about the contributions GW makes to the city and to Foggy Bottom. GW is part of the fabric of Foggy Bottom. UPD is an important resource that helps keep Foggy Bottom one of the safest neighborhoods in the city.
-The writer is chief of University Police.