By James Sheridan
FSU Campus Police will be instituting a new police log policy next week, because a recently passed amendment changed a Massachusetts law – causing the state law to conflict with federal law.
The new amendment, passed last summer, requires police departments to keep entries – including those that pertain to sexual assault and domestic abuse – which previously were completely open to the public, in a separate, private logbook.
However, a federal act, known as the Clery Act, requires police departments in colleges and universities to maintain a daily log in which “all responses to valid complaints” are recorded and made available to the public.
The Jeanne Clery Act, first enacted in 1990, was named in memory of Jeanne Clery, who was raped and murdered in her residence hall room by a fellow student on April 5, 1986. After her death, her parents helped create and pass laws requiring the disclosure of campus crime information, including the federal law that bears their daughter’s name.
FSU Campus Police Chief Brad Medeiros said, “It was very apparent the two statutes conflicted with each other.” He added that the police started working with FSU General Counsel Rita Colucci in August, because, although the statutes conflicted, the department is still “mandated to comply with both of them.”
This Thursday, Medeiros said, a new policy for compliance was passed and will “most likely” be put into action as early as next week. The new policy will fulfill the Clery Act requirements as well as the state law by recording the time, date and title of the offense as well as the response to the offense in the public logs, while keeping the exact charges, as well as any personal information included in the entry, in the private, state-mandated log.
According to Massachusetts amendment (Senate No. 2334), any entry holding “any information concerning reports of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or assault and battery or (iii) the violation of a protective order where the victim is a family or household member,” will be placed in the private logbook which the public will have no right to view.
Leanne Cyr, a senior nutrition major, said she believes all police logs should be public because they are “a safety issue.” She added she does not like the idea that the state law does not mandate the departments to be transparent. “It is a matter of control,” she said.
Since September, the FSU Campus Police Department has followed this new law and placed entries concerning reports of sexual assault in a private logbook instead of the public one. However, according to Medeiros, the reports that were placed into the private log will be put back into the public one as soon as the new policy is instituted.
State Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), who was the Chair of the Conference Committee that reviewed senate docket number 2334, said the reason the document keeps police log entries regarding reports of domestic violence in a private log is to protect the identity of the victims of the crimes.
She added that the committee heard testimony from many victims of domestic abuse who were in support of the change because they believed it would make many victims more comfortable reporting their cases. Spilka added she was surprised that, to her knowledge, the committee did not hear from anyone who was opposed to the amendment. She said she did not agree with the law because she “likes to have things initially transparent.”
Maria Rockowicz, a senior biology major, said she thought keeping certain logs private could be “good or bad.” She added that although keeping the information private could help victims stay confidential, “if you hear about these things ... the more likely you will be able to take precautions, even though it sucks that we have to be.”
Angelo Liquori, a senior biology major, said keeping all police logs public may make people “more aware and precautious.”
State Representative Tom Sannicandro (D-Ashland) said, “The conference committee weighed both sides of whether or not to make public the names of perpetrators, and by association the victims, of domestic violence.” He added, “In the end, the committee decided domestic violence reporting should be treated the same as reporting guidelines in the case of rape and sexual assault, and therefore the names should be withheld so as not to discourage victims from coming forward and seeking help.”
According to the Director of the 32 National Campus Safety Initiative (32 NCSI) S. Daniel Carter, who helped develop and pass the Clery Act, the federal law “provides extensive privacy protections for victims of all crimes,” and “specifically states that any information that would ‘jeopardize the confidentiality of the victim’ must be withheld from the public log.”
He added, “The new [Massachusetts] exception runs directly counter to the recent amendments to the Clery Act which require additional transparency about dating violence, domestic violence and stalking, as well as sexual assault. ... It is critically important that these offenses not be swept under the rug, and be seen in the full light of day so that we as a society can know the full scope of the challenge we face in taking them in.”
Colucci said that after working with outside counsel, FSU Campus Police has found way to “maintain compliance” with both the federal and state laws.
Junior biology major Kourtney Kacian said she believes the time and eVort Campus Police has put into complying with both laws is “commendable.” She added having information about the crimes committed on campus makes her feel safer.
Junior political science and English major Susan Siraco said, “While I understand protecting the privacy of the victims of these crimes, hiding the information may help promote the idea that these aren’t ‘real’ crimes and belittle how severe these things truly are.” She added, “I think it is good campus police is fixing this, and although fixing these things may not solve the problem [of sexual assault and domestic abuse] tomorrow, they may help us move in the right direction towards a solution.”