BUPD hears concerns at SGA senate meeting

The outside of the SGA office in Atherton Union. Collegian file photo.

JACKSON BORMAN | STAFF REPORTER | jborman@butler.edu

This story was updated on May 4 to indicate that charges against Jordan Greer were dismissed in February 2017. 

SGA Senate, BUPD’s Chief of Public Safety John Conley and other BUPD officers met on the third floor of Atherton Union to discuss the questions and concerns of Butler students regarding safety and BUPD on campus.

Jimmy Lardin, SGA president, presided over the meeting and helped keep things moving.

The meeting was prompted by recent criminal activity on campus, as well as students’ questions about BUPD’s perceived crackdown on drinking and campus parties. Students were not invited to the meeting, but could watch it live on Butler SGA’s instagram page.

Many students tuned in, varying throughout the meeting, but often totaling nearly 200. Some of the questions posted in the comments by students on the live feed were added to the meeting by SGA senators.

The first topic addressed was racial profiling. Jordan Greer, sophomore football player, told his account of an incident that happened last spring between BUPD officers and himself.

Greer said he and some teammates had been drinking at a party that was busted by BUPD. They told everyone to leave, and while Greer and his friends were leaving, they were stopped by a different BUPD officer who had been looking for a burglar in the neighborhood.

“[The officer] pushed me on the ground pretty hard, put a gun on my back and said, ‘Don’t make me shoot you,’” Greer said.

Greer said the officer took him and a teammate to the BUPD station, and told them to shut up and not say anything. The handcuffs were extremely tight, and Greer said his hands had gone completely numb.

Eventually the officer told them they were going to the Marion County jail, which frightened Greer and his teammate. They were held there for 24 hours.

“One minute you’re at a college party, and then you’re going downtown,” Greer said. “[They were] the worst hours of my life; you don’t know what’s going on.”

Greer acknowledged that he should not have been drinking, seeing as though he was underage, but felt the way that he and his teammates were treated that night was unacceptable.

“It was dumb to be out at the party, but it was just shocking that we were pursued so hard,” Greer said.

Chief Conley responded to Greer’s testimony.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that, because you’re obviously a great young man,” Conley said. “I will continue to say, from the bottom of my heart, we will not racial profile. It will never be tolerated on BUPD.”

Conley said the officer did not know that Greer was a Butler student until after the incident had happened and said if they had known, they would have taken different measures.

One student asked on the live feed, “What’s the policy for pulling out a gun for police officers? If he got down, what’s the policy?”

Conley responded by saying that until the suspect is handcuffed, restrained and searched, officers do not know if the person is a threat. He told a story about an officer at Texas Tech University who was shot and killed because the officer had not patted down the suspect.

Because of the dangers of the profession, Conley said it is up to officers to make those types of decisions.

“It’s not a black and white policy,” Conley said. “[Officers] can pull a weapon at any time they feel their life is in jeopardy.”

Conley also said students should not typically go to jail because of underage drinking — Greer’s case was because he was fleeing a police officer. But they want to avoid sending someone downtown just for fleeing a party. Conley apologized again to Greer and said that he even called his parents to apologize.

All charges against Greer were dismissed in February 2017.

Kelly Murphy, a SGA senator for off campus housing, asked why students have not received sexual assault alerts this year, to which Conley replied simply there have not been any.

The BUPD daily crime logs indicate there was one instance of rape at Fairview House on Oct. 12.

Stephanie Nahhas, a sororities senator, noted there seems to be a disconnect between students and BUPD on campus, and students are upset with the way BUPD has been operating this semester.

Conley replied that he feels that disconnect as well and said students snowballing the problems gets the whole campus worked up. He said the recent weeks had become a, “feeding frenzy,” and highlighted Madeleine Lucchetti’s article in the Butler Collegian saying that some of the gossip around campus is not true.

He asked SGA to give him suggestions about what BUPD should do to improve police-student relations.

Sophomore senator Matt Warren suggested BUPD see what peer university police departments’ relationship with students and policies were like, and Conley could make adjustments based on what other schools are doing about their police departments.

Conley then addressed the confusion behind the difference between a Dawg Alert and a timely warning.

The Dawg alert is for emergency notifications regarding present activity on campus, while the timely warning is reserved for situations that have already happened, and no longer are a threat to campus. BUPD has considered changing the title of the timely warning to eliminate confusion about the two types of alerts.

Multiple senators asked about getting alerts sooner. Conley agreed with them, saying safety is always his priority.

“I’m going to do a better job to get something out sooner even if it’s not as thorough,” Conley said.

Warren issued a survey to his constituents regarding their concerns about BUPD and campus safety, and said many of the surveys students sent back to him were about over policing and BUPD searching for underage drinkers.

Mario Giannini, a Ross Hall senator, agreed that his constituents were also concerned with this saying they will often opt to spend the night in an unfamiliar or potentially unsafe place instead of walking back to Ross where they might get busted by BUPD.

Conley said it is important to him to look out for excessive drinking because of the probability of sexual assault that comes with drunkenness. Conley said that one in five college students is sexually assaulted.

RAINN, (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), published a study in 2016 that said 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).

Marissa Klinger, a commuter senator, asked whether there has been a BUPD policy change regarding searching for underage drinking or public intoxication on campus or if BUPD has a goal of catching these types of offenses more than before.

Conley said there has been no policy change and they are not seeking out offenders. BUPD has just seen more instances of drinking on campus.

“Underage drinking is looking for us,” Conley said.

Nick Bentz, a senator for Jordan College of the Arts, asked what BUPD was doing to educate students on the dangers of drinking He thought that issuing drinking tickets and making arrests were not going to help anyone be smarter about drinking on campus.

Conley said they have information posted on their website, and that BUPD works closely with student affairs but that they cannot turn a blind eye.

“It’s against the law,” Conley said. “I don’t know what to say.”

Nahhas said that as a president of a sorority, it scares her to hear that her members have been going off campus, as far as Wabash College, in search of a good party. This concerned her because when members are far away, other members cannot help them if they are in need of assistance.

At this point, BUPD Sergeant Loran Wilber stepped in and made a very clear stance.

“Sounds like to me you’re wanting us to alter our stance on alcohol laws,” he said. “[BUPD] cannot turn blind eye to a drinking student. When something bad happens, we’re ultimately responsible.”

Lardin stopped him, saying that students do not necessarily want BUPD to turn a blind eye, as much as they are afraid that BUPD is seeking out underage drinkers and parties to shut them down.

Wilber denied that BUPD was seeking out alcohol related offenses, but said they do patrol in residence halls “looking for anything.”

“That’s part of policing,” Wilber said. “That’s what we do.”

At this point, the meeting was running out of time. Lardin motioned to extend the meeting, asking the senators for their approval to continue the discussion via raising their blue placards. A sea of bright blue placards were raised.

Giannini then brought up the fact that while underage drinking is illegal, it is inevitable and naive to assume that it would not happen on campus. Because of this, students who are responsible with their alcohol, for example not throwing up in stairwells or stumbling around as Conley had described, are concerned.

Conley responded by saying BUPD does not have a choice in the matter if someone has been drinking underage and it comes to their attention. Conley also said he feels that students are hostile or no longer willing to have conversations with BUPD officers.

“I’m here for you, I’m not here against you,” Conley said. “I’m always trying to say hi, but feel like lately I can’t say hi.”

Lardin then asked the senators if they no longer felt safe on campus. Once again, every placard rose.

Lardin motioned to extend the meeting again, this time just for five additional minutes to wrap things up.

A senator said that she thinks there needs to be an ongoing discussion between students, SGA and BUPD.

Conley agreed, saying that he would bring the topics that were discussed in the meeting forward with his team at their next staff meeting. Conley also said that he will start a new program called “Coffee with a Cop,” as an opportunity for students to sit down and talk to BUPD officers about their questions and concerns.

Throughout the meeting, students who were watching via Instagram commented their support for their senators, opinions on questions and answers, and general feelings about topics.

One comment seemed to stick out the most: “Is it bad that after watching this I have more questions than answers?”

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