BUPD Chief John Conley speaks at the Coffee with a Cop meeting on Feb. 12. BUPD has been holding these meetings since November 2017. Photo by Peter Larson.
SORELL GROW | ASST. NEWS EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
I attended a Coffee with a Cop meeting on Feb. 12. It was held in a pharmacy building lecture hall and led by Butler University Police Department Chief John Conley. Also in attendance was assistant chief Tony Rivera, Title IX coordinator Jamie Brennan and several other BUPD officers and detectives.
These names had been part of ongoing campus buzz since the start of this school year. And yet, despite having several prominent people within university law enforcement and Title IX coordinator in one room together to answer questions, I was one of four students in attendance.
Coffee with a Cop is a BUPD-sponsored meeting that happens about every month as a way to connect with the Butler community. In a Letter to the Editor, Conley said BUPD began organizing the program in November 2017. The first Butler Connection advertisement appeared Nov. 20.
The officers in attendance said four students is a larger turnout than they’ve had in a while.
The advertising of the Feb. 12 meeting had only been in the Connection once on the day of the event. BUPD also tweeted it on Feb. 9, a day before the meeting, and again during the event. Student Government Association also tweeted about it the morning of the event.
The lack of student attendance represents a larger issue that has become prominent on Butler’s campus this year — a disconnect between BUPD and the student body.
Leo Martin, sophomore computer science and finance double major, was one of the students in attendance at Coffee with a Cop.
“I was really surprised by the way students view BUPD here on campus,” Martin said. “I was expecting it to be extremely positive and every personal interaction I’ve had with them has been great, so I’m surprised there isn’t a better connection.”
Separation between civilian population and law enforcement nationally has become common as a result of police brutality. On college campuses, particularly one as small as Butler, the size and closely-knit community allows university police to form relationships with the students, faculty, staff and other community members they serve.
Janssen Keiger, junior strategic communications major, also attended the meeting. He said he has felt safe on Butler’s campus until this year.
“I realized that there is an issue of safety of this campus in terms of sexual assault, drinking, and violence on the Knoll—things like that,” Keiger said.
In light of recent events this year, such as the armed robbery on 44th Street, the sexual assault case covered by the IndyStar, confusion about Title IX, the ongoing issue of underage drinking, it became clear it was necessary to hear BUPD’s side of the story.
Two weeks ago, I sat down with chief of police John Conley and assistant chief of police Tony Rivera to go over, step-by-step, and clarify the policies and procedures that BUPD follows.
Sexual assault and reporting
On Jan. 29, the IndyStar published an article about the university’s “mishandling” of an ex-Butler student’s sexual assault case. The article was shared on social media by members of the Butler community and spurred many comments accusation and disappointment aimed at the administration, the Title IX coordinator and BUPD.
“My initial reaction was very angry,” Keiger said. “I would love to think that doesn’t happen here, but that’s not realistic.”
Originally, the community’s attention was geared toward BUPD. Conley said he received several messages from people in the Butler community.
Conely said he received messages of sympathy from community members during this “difficult time” for BUPD. When the chief responded to them saying the sexual assault case was a Title IX responsibility, not BUPD, they were surprised, he said.
To further clarify, BUPD’s involvement with sexual assault cases is as limited as the victim wants it to be.
There are three methods of reporting a sexual assault, regardless of whether the victim or a witness reports the crime: BUPD, Title IX or a campus security authority.
As defined on Butler’s website, a CSA is “an official of an institution who has significant responsibility for student and campus activities,” and “any individual or organization specified in an institution’s statement of campus security policy as one to which students and employees should report criminal offenses.”
CSAs at Butler include resident life coordinators, coaches and athletic trainers. Students are encouraged to report a sexual assault to any CSA on campus, and the CSA guides the victim to Title IX.
BUPD officers and the Title IX coordinator are considered CSAs.
Once the crime is reported to a CSA, they are federally obligated, as per the Clery Act, to send an official CSA report to the chief of police, Title IX coordinator, BUPD captain of administration and a detective. The Title IX coordinator is also a CSA, so if a victim or witness reports directly to them, a CSA report is still filled out.
Required report details include date and time of crime, date and time reported to CSA, location, description of crime and other logistical details, which is sufficient information for BUPD to put into their daily crime log. The crime log is public information, accessible by anyone and updated about every 48 hours by Captain Diane Sweeney.
The victim and perpetrator are not identified to BUPD, and it’s unlikely that a sexual assault will be reported to BUPD before any other outlets, Conley said.
“Everyone has the opinion that BUPD knows more than we really know,” Conley said. “For me, it’s frustrating because you want to help, but without the information, which we don’t receive, it seems as if we’re powerless.”
There is a difference between want-to-know versus need-to-know information, and giving out too much information about a case can compromise an investigation, Conley said.
BUPD’s next step is gathering physical evidence of the crime, if available. Forensic evidence, from the crime scene and body of the victim, is usually only able to be collected within 72 hours of a sexual assault, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
Victims do not go through with legal proceedings unless they decide to. They are encouraged to agree to have all physical evidence collected in the available 48 to 72-hour time span to preserve their rights if they pursue the case later, Conley said.
He said the first priority of BUPD is tending to the emotional needs of the victim and help them feel as comfortable as possible.
“At no time is a victim deserving of what happens to them,” Conley said.
What happens after BUPD plays their part— collecting evidence at the crime scene and from the victim to store for potential use in a criminal trial against the perpetrator— is handled entirely by the campus Title IX coordinator, Conley said.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, a Title IX coordinator “evaluates, investigates, and resolves complaints alleging sex discrimination,” and “conducts proactive investigations, called compliance reviews, to examine potential systemic violations based on sources of information other than complaints.”
Butler’s website says the Title IX coordinator “ensures prompt investigation of complaints alleging sexual harassment; reviews findings as to whether sexual harassment occurred; reviews proposed remedies necessary to address the sexual harassment, eliminate any hostile environment, and prevent its reoccurrence; and ensures the University’s compliance with Title IX.”
44th Street armed robbery
On Oct.17, 2017, BUPD faced backlash for the Timely Warning message they sent to Butler’s listserv after two armed suspects entered a 44th Street senior house and robbed several students at gunpoint.
The suspects left the premises with several stolen items, including the victims’ phones. By the time the victims borrowed a neighbor’s phone to call BUPD and tracked their phones, they were on Highway 465, several minutes away from campus, Conley said.
The robbery occurred around 12:30 p.m., but the Butler community was not officially notified by BUPD until later that evening via email.
“A report of a Residence Robbery occurring in a house on the 600 block of West 44th Street just south of campus around 12:30 PM on October 17, 2017, has been made to the University Police. Several victims stated that unknown suspects entered through a back door and robbed them at gunpoint. An investigation is underway,” the email read.
The suspects were no longer an immediate threat to campus, which would’ve forced a Dawg Alert to be sent, Conley said.
“There was an armed robber a block away from our campus and this happened in broad daylight, and that person could’ve easily come onto campus and attacked or robbed somebody else,” junior Keiger said. “In those moments, when the campus is at risk, we should be notified pretty immediately.”
The neighbor who called BUPD gave four different addresses to the emergency dispatcher, Conley said.
At this same time, about 12:40 p.m., Conley was on the phone with Butler’s vice president of student affairs, Dr. Frank Ross, to make him aware of the situation. Ross sent dean of student services Sally Click to the scene, he said.
Click left her office immediately after Ross’ call for the house. Upon her arrival, about eight students and several BUPD cars were already outside the house. A BUPD officer was speaking with each person and taking reports of their experience, Click said in an email.
Everyone waited for a forensics representative from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to arrive to take photos and dust for prints at the scene, so no one re-entered the house.
“I understand there are a lot of things that need to be kept confidential from the general public so when things like that occur, if they start spewing out information, that’s just going to create complete chaos from a legal standpoint,” Martin said.
Conley said BUPD had reason to believe drug-related illegal activity was transpiring in the house prior that caused the robbery. After a police investigation, a student who lived in the house was arrested and charged with two felony counts of drug dealing, according a police report.
“I realized that we had victims of that robbery, but I also realized there was activity at that house that caused those people to come to campus and cause a danger that could victimize many more students, so we had to address both sides of it— them as victims and also the drug dealing,” Conley said. “It’s like we were addressing the symptom, the robbery, but then we had to also address the disease that was the drug dealing.”
The chief said if BUPD receives cooperation from the students involved that will lead them to identify the armed intruders, they will arrest those suspects.
“They had absolutely no right— I don’t care what the students were doing wrong— they had absolutely no right to come to campus and stick guns in our students’ faces,” Conley said.
Dawg Alerts are an especially tricky issue for BUPD.
“We get many, many more complaints about non-emergency things than we do emergency things,” Conley said. “So, should we not address any of the other complaints because we’re worried people will think we’re spending more time on those than emergencies? No, we still have to address them.”
Rivera said that if BUPD sent out a Dawg Alert for every crime that is placed on the daily crime log, he fears people would start ignoring the frequent notifications. If a Dawg Alert about an actual threat to campus was sent out – amidst the notifications about thefts from parking meters, stolen exit signs, late library books and other minor infractions – it could be easily missed or ignored.
“It probably could be defined better,” Marti said. “Sure, it’s nice to know when there’s a fire alarm in a building, but it shouldn’t be issued the same amount of importance as an actual threat. It issues more fear than it might deserve.”
Dawg Alerts are sent out if people on campus need to take immediate action to do something or if the campus is facing an immediate threat. A Dawg Watch Advisory, previously known as Timely Warning, is a general update to the community about something that was not an immediate threat.
Parking on campus
The chief and assistant chief explained that parking on Butler’s campus has to be enforced harshly due to a legal agreement with the surrounding residential area.
Because Butler’s campus is located in a suburban neighborhood, students and faculty parking in the surrounding streets prevents residents from parking at their own homes.
Butler was sued by the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association and entered into a contract with the association to enforce strict campus perimeters for parking in 1989, according to court documents.
“If we don’t enforce them, then what happens to the students that are abiding by the rules?” Conley said. “They’re the ones that paid for a sticker, they’re the ones doing everything they should be doing. Parking is such a tight situation, we have to enforce it strictly or it’ll just be utter chaos.”
Sophomore Leo Martin said he thinks parking is a good moneymaker for them.
“I don’t think it’s out of the realm of what normal municipalities do,” Martin said. “They’re quick, but they’re also just doing their job.”
Rivera called the inevitable Dawg Alerts that are sent out in the hours preceding a men’s basketball game “a plea to move their cars so we don’t have to.”
“I think it’s kind of understood around campus on game days that if you’re parked at Hinkle, your car is going to get towed because they need that parking,” student Keiger said.
Keiger suggested organizing a Welcome Week programming to teach first years to not park at Hinkle on game days.
“It’s not a parking problem, it’s a walking problem, as we always say,” Rivera said. “Nobody wants to walk the distance, and I get it, I understand.”
Underage drinking is a reality on college campuses that is not going away anytime soon – and BUPD accepts that, Conley said.
“My goal is, if things like that are happening on this campus, it doesn’t put our students in a position where they become a victim or get injured in any way,” Conley said. “This is a cultural thing among students that can only be controlled by students. It’s not going to be controlled by administrators or the police department. It’s a situation where the students need to be the ones to step up.”
Keiger said he has frequently seen BUPD patrol cars sitting outside fraternity houses on weekend nights and it seems like they are targeting those areas.
Conley said when BUPD finds students drinking underage, it’s usually because somebody else has called to tell them somebody is sick or needs help, due to consuming alcohol.
“We can’t afford to take the risk of letting a student go and try to sleep it off, and then having to call their parents the next morning to tell them they died of alcohol poisoning,” Conley said.
With protective measures like the Indiana Lifeline Law in place to encourage underage drinkers to call on behalf of their friends in the face of emergencies, there are many opportunities to be safe while drinking — especially if things go south.
“At no time do I ever want the fact that they consumed alcohol to prevent them from calling us, because we’re not going to hold that against them at that point,” Conley said. “They’re a victim, and we’re going to try to get them the help that they need and handle that situation properly. We’re not here to add insult to injury.”
If a student receives a drinking citation, they will have a permanent criminal arrest record, need to pay for and hire an attorney and stand in front of a judge in court. In many cases, BUPD offers the Diversion Program to students as way to clear their arrest record after one year of programming and no following violations.
The Diversion Program is a legal program that BUPD created. It’s offered to any Butler students who get a summons arrest. Students can participate in the program, depending on what they are doing when the arrest happens and possible extenuating circumstances or crimes committed. Their attitude to and treatment of the officer can also affect their chances.
“If we were really wanting to stick it to the students, we wouldn’t have a program like this,” Rivera said. “It’s an opportunity for us to help be an educational part of student’s experiences.”
The police department’s criminal consequences regarding alcohol violations are separate from university student conduct consequences. A student may go through the Diversion Program and have their violation waived, but still might face consequences from student conduct.
“We’re under the impression that everyone is entitled to their mistakes – depending on what it is and how innocent it is,” Rivera said. “Everybody’s at Butler for a reason. They’re not coming here and spending this amount of money to get an education to party — this is not a party school. They’re coming here for their future, and we want to help them get there.”
Malin Peterson is the head of the new SGA BUPD Student Liaison Committee, which aims to use programming and education to strengthen the relationship between students and BUPD.
“As SGA, we saw a desperate need for a committee that was solely here to work on that relationship and see where campus was at,” Peterson said. “That evident disconnect is just getting stronger and eventually that’s going to influence a lot of other disconnects on campus and we want to stop that before it gets any worse.”
Upcoming programming includes more heavily-advertised and SGA-sponsored Coffee with a Cop meetings in casual settings. Peterson is also planning a Starbucks table raffle to win a free dinner at Scotty’s Dawghouse, which students can enter after asking a question to a BUPD officer seated at the table.
“There needs to be a student understanding that when you have these platforms, you have to take advantage of them if you want to see change,” Peterson said.
Another event in the works is a spiff off the usual Tuesday Takeover with an SGA member on the @butlersga Instagram story. Instead, this Friday Night Takeover would involve a student on a ride-along with a BUPD officer in a patrol car, streamed on Instagram Live.
Keiger explained his frustration with the backlash BUPD faces on social media.
“I wish students took more initiative rather than just talking about it on social media,” Keiger said. “I feel like we’re only willing to acknowledge what we want to and we’re not really wanting to bring it to BUPD and hear their side. BUPD is just going to keep doing their thing until students take their concerns to them.”
The law is clear and as law enforcement officers, they’ve sworn to have to enforce it. BUPD can’t turn a blind eye- if they did, they’d violate several federal laws, Conley said.
“I just really want people to know that we’re here and available,” assistant chief Rivera said. “If they want to come talk and ask their own questions, they’re welcome here . We will talk to them. We’re as transparent as we legally can be. We’re not hiding anything, and all you have to do is come to the door and ask. Do yourself some justice and find the right answer, don’t go by what other people say.”