OPINION | Know your rights when dealing with the police

Students and the rest of the community need to educate themselves about their rights with respect to the police.

Last Tuesday, Butler University Police Department released a timely warning about a police impersonator.

On Sept. 11, a man claiming to be a police officer stopped a student and had her complete a breathalyzer test..

The student reported the man to BUPD afterward.

The department quickly verified this was not one of their officers and contacted the excise officers working on campus this year.

However, the officers are not on campus every day or even every week.

The respective officers took several days to make certain this was not one of their officers.

“To my knowledge, nothing like this has happened at Butler University since I came here,” Ben Hunter, chief of staff and executive director of public safety, said.

BUPD wanted to be absolutely certain before releasing any warnings regarding this case, Hunter said.

There have been several complaints about the excise police, but this is obviously a different problem.

However, students and other community members can make repeat events less likely—and keep themselves safer in general—by remembering their rights.

Any person who is stopped by an officer has the right to see the officer’s badge.

“Our officers keep their badges on display,” Hunter said. “Excise officers usually do not take any action without a uniformed officer present.”

“And you can always call BUPD on the non-emergency number if you are stopped by one of our officers to confirm who the officer is,” Hunter said. “Even if excise stops a community member, the person can request a BUPD officer be present.”

BUPD is also requesting that excise police tune in to the campus police department’s radio so that it can confirm the presence and location of officers faster.

“We aren’t sure why it’s happening now,” Assistant Chief of Police Bill Weber said, “or what the intent is.”

Police impersonators should obviously be considered a bigger threat than grievances about alcohol enforcement.

Impersonating an officer is a felony.

Unlawfully detaining someone is also a felony.

Hunter had a few more tips for students.

Whenever possible, walk in pairs or groups.

Be on the lookout for suspicious activity, and look out for fellow community members.

This person broke the law and should be arrested, Hunter said. But there’s no guarantee the suspect will ever come back.

“Some people might think that the attention this case is getting will drive away whoever did this,” Hunter said. “That’s what we want.”

BUPD has no leads in the case.

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