Constituent speaks out on incident with police

Updated at 8:17 a.m. on Oct. 23, 2015: In an earlier version of this story The Campus failed to attribute a source’s statement. 

A student senator and a cabinet member raised concerns about the treatment of students by local law enforcement and campus security officers, at Allegheny Student Government’s weekly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20.  The concerns were voiced during a Q&A session with Interim Dean of Students Jacquie Kondrot.

Senior Class President Jasmine Clark said she was contacted by a constituent about an incident in which an LGBT student and community member were stopped by members of the Meadville City  Police as they were walking and holding hands.

“This was during a party night and Meadville police stopped them and asked if they were of age,” Clark said.

The student, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to safety concerns, said they were stopped on North Main Street near Brooks Walk. The student said the officers claimed to have stopped them for “public drunkenness.”

Three police cars were eventually called to the scene, and police ran both of their IDs, the student said. The officers told them they had not stopped them for holding hands, but because they thought they were physically supporting each other. The student said the officers made remarks about their personal lives, asking if their parents were aware they were seeing each other.  

Neither was arrested or ticketed. One of the officers had a parting comment, according to the student. “Next time, just make smarter decisions when you’re out at night,” the student said the officer said.

Kondrot encouraged Clark to have the individuals file an official complaint with Meadville police; however, a complaint must be filed in person at the Meadville police station, something Clark said the constituent did not feel comfortable doing. Kondrot said she is willing to assist in any way possible, even by serving as an intermediary between local police and the students.

Meadville City Police Assistant Chief Michael Tautin said he had not heard about the incident, and that without further details he could not comment; however, he said this type of police conduct is not something that is accepted at the department.

“This is not condoned or tolerated by the police department,” Tautin said.

Tautin said he hopes those involved will file a report with the Meadville police so he can investigate the matter.

Connor Racine, ’16, ASG director of diversity and inclusion, also voiced a concern about incidents of bias by members of campus security.

“There have just been some issues over the last couple of years,” Racine said.

Racine said several “students of color” had reported feeling increased scrutiny from security officers, especially on weekends in Mckinley’s Food Court. He said students reported being “stared down” by officers. Racine said several students were afraid to eat at Mckinley’s.   

Racine admitted he had not heard the complaints first-hand, but through others who had spoken with the students. He said conversations between students and  safety and security are ongoing.

Director of the Office of Campus Security Jeff Schneider declined to comment and directed questions to the dean of students office.    

Kondrot once again offered her assistance. She said the college is invested in ensuring that campus security officers are sensitive and tolerant to all students.

“We have done some training with campus security and we will be doing more,” said Kondrot.  

Kondrot also took time during the meeting to update ASG on several issues, including the effectiveness of the amended alcohol and drug policy, which was voted on earlier this year by ASG.

“We did this year change our alcohol policy to include what I like to call the helpful bystander clause,” Kondrot said.

The clause states that in the event a student seeks help for a student who may be in danger, neither the student in need of assistance or the student seeking assistance for them, may be sanctioned by the college.

“It is designed to encourage people to seek help,” Kondrot said.

There have been two incidents this semester where the clause was used, Kondrot said. It is largely working as it should, however she said a clarification may be needed to exclude scenarios in which a residence adviser must seek help for a student.