Students unsatisfied with BUPD, Dawg Alerts, general campus safety

BUPD on the corner of Sunset Avenue and Hampton Drive. Photo by Jessica Lee. 

JACKSON BORMAN | STAFF REPORTER | jborman@butler.edu

Karla Jeggle lives in a senior house on Berkley Road, just a couple of blocks behind Ross Hall and the Butler University police department.

On Oct. 23, while studying at home, Jeggle, a senior actuarial science major, was interrupted by a screaming match in the front yard of the house next door.

While texting with her roommates about the noise, the group heard what they believed to be a gunshot.

In a hurry, the roommates gathered downstairs, called BUPD, closed their windows and locked all of their doors. On the phone, BUPD said they and the Indianapolis Police Department had already gotten calls about the incident.

It was silent. The neighbors had left the yard. An officer arrived on the scene, but Jeggle and her roommates stayed away from the windows, for fear of more bullets and did not see what happened.

The officer left and at 11:51 p.m. Butler students were sent the following Dawg Alert: Reports of a gunshot near campus were unfounded, was an argument involving breaking glass bottles only, nostudents involved.”

 

Jeggle and her roommates were not convinced.

“It was very loud and we could all clearly hear it,” Jeggle said. “I’ve never heard a gunshot before, but one of my roommates said she had heard a gunshot before and that it definitely sounded like it.”

After talking to their neighbors, their concerns were not put to rest.

The house across the street had found a bullet in the street. They showed it to BUPD who said that it was too large to be used in a handgun, so it was unrelated to the incident from the night of the 23rd.

Jeggle said that finding bullets of any kind is not calming.

“Regardless of whether it was related to this incident or not, I think the fact that there are bullets being found in our street is a concern,” Jeggle said. “Like, I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to investigate where this bullet was from, regardless of whether it was from that night or not.”

One of her other neighbors claimed they saw someone shooting a gun straight up into the air on the night of Oct. 23.

John Conley, BUPD Chief of Public Safety, said there was a possibility that there had been a gunshot that night. The reason the Dawg Alert was sent out was to alert students of a possible threat.

“We wanted to make students aware of the fact that it was unfounded, meaning, it didn’t mean it didn’t happen, it just means we can’t find any evidence of it,” Conley said. “We had been told that there was a domestic disturbance there, so we put out the Dawg Alert, which means that there is an ongoing situation that is still unresolved and could pose a potential risk to the campus community.”

The lack of further investigation that night disturbed Jeggle, as well as her roommates.

“It seemed to be brushed off so easily [by BUPD],” Jeggle said. “It just seemed a little bit like we were being invalidated and our concerns with campus safety were not being taken seriously.”

One of her housemates questioned why they should call BUPD in the future if it does not seem like they are going to care.

“No Butler students were involved in this, but the house that was involved is surrounded by Butler students,” Jeggle said. “I’ve never felt unsafe on Butler’s campus before, but this year has made me feel the most unsafe.”

Conley said additional officers have been sent to that area of campus ever since the night of the reported gunshot to monitor the situation and protect those students.

While he believes the additional police presence is the solution to keeping students safe, Conley said more patrols is a double-edged sword.

“We are over-policing to some, and under-policing to others, so is there a win in that?” Conley said. “My call is and always will be for the safety of the students, and as long as I don’t have a student injured somewhere, I’m OK.”

Maggie Risley, sophomore elementary education major and Alpha Phi member, said the recent instances of crime on campus have made her worry more about safety here at Butler as well.

“I’m getting more nervous about [safety on campus], just because I live in a sorority house near the edge of campus, and walking around at night is nerve-racking because you have to be a little more edge about it,” Risley said.

As of yesterday, according to the BUPD daily crime logs, there have been more than 30 instances of theft, 20 instances of alcohol-related crimes like possession or alcohol by a minor and public intoxication and more than 10 instances of vandalism in the month of October. There have also been instances of harassment, fraud, drug possession, assault and one instance of rape, in addition to the armed robbery and reported gunshots.

Conley said there are lots of ways that BUPD can help students. Besides the Dawg Ride program, BUPD offers safety escorts for students to safely get to where they need to be. Conley said he also meets with students to discuss safety measures.

Jeggle said that she thinks the Dawg Alert system needs to be improved.

“I wish that we had gotten a Dawg Alert as soon as BUPD had gotten calls about gunshots,” Jeggle said. “We can’t get the ‘all clear’ [Dawg Alert] without first getting the ‘there is a concern in the area.’”

Becky Rhodes, sophomore critical communications and media studies and political science major, is the senate parliamentarian for SGA.

She said this Dawg Alert system left many unanswered questions for students.

“I don’t think the way that it was sent out [was acceptable],” Rhodes said. “I think that it was too late, and it was very informal and not specific enough.”

The Oct. 17 armed robbery also worried Jeggle because she often walks by that very house on her way to the Alpha Chi Omega house, where she is a member.

“I easily could have been walking by that house at 12:30,” Jeggle said about the time of day that the robbery took place. “And I know I am not the only one.”

Rhodes said that she is familiar with the students living in the house where the armed robbery incident took place, and the response time of BUPD was unacceptable.

“I know exactly where their house is and I think it is ridiculous,” Rhodes said. “I can walk to BUPD from that house faster than [they got there that day].”

Jeggle said she walked up and down 44th Street several times between when the robbery occurred and when she received the “Timely Warning” email from BUPD at 5:25 p.m.

“I’m not saying that what they are sending is wrong, just maybe more frequent updates and updates as soon as they hear about something going on [would help],” Jeggle said.

Jeggle was not alone in this opinion. Some students like Geoff Beck, senior finance and marketing major, criticized the Timely Warning on social media, “Thanks for the ‘timely’ warning on this @butleru. Five hours after an armed robbery in the middle of the day. Putting student safety first!”

Conley said that BUPD has two different types of alerts that it sends out. The Dawg Alert and the Timely Warning.

The Dawg Alert is for emergency notifications regarding situations that are current, ongoing and and threatening to the campus community. They often will have instructions that go with them, such as suggesting students seek shelter or avoid a certain area.

In the past, Dawg Alerts had a character limit, so that they could be sent out via Twitter as well as through email, texts and calls. This year BUPD has removed the Twitter feature so that Dawg Alerts can be sent out with more information. BUPD will continue to send alerts through Twitter, they will just be sent separately from the Dawg Alert.

Conley said that the reason more Dawg Alerts have not gone out this semester is simply because they have not been needed.

“The campus has been pretty quiet most of the year,” Conley said. “We have not had any Dawg Alerts or anything until [the gunshot] situation.”

The Timely Warning is reserved for serious situations, such as the armed robbery, that could be a threat to the campus community, but is not current or ongoing. It gives officers more time to gather information about the crime and figure out what actually happened.

In the case of the armed robbery, Conley said, BUPD was late to be notified of the situation, because the victims had had their phones stolen by the robbers. By the time BUPD arrived, one of the victims had tracked their cell phone that had been taken by the robbers, and it was already far from campus, which indicated that there was not an immediate threat.

BUPD could not comment further on the incident so as not to impact their investigation.

“Instead of putting the entire campus in a panic [with a Dawg Alert], which you don’t do because there is no immediate ongoing threat, you gather all the information you can and put out the Timely Warning,” Conley said.

Conley said if officers had gotten to the scene and had no information regarding the whereabouts of the perpetrators, students would have gotten a Dawg Alert, and the campus would have been locked down until the situation was resolved.

The two types of an alert are not BUPD-specific policy. The Timely Warning is an alert that was required by the Jeanne Clery Act in 1990. Campus Safety magazine covered these two types of alerts in 2014.

“Timely is never really defined,” Conley said. “It can be anywhere from one hour after an incident to two days.’

Conley also said BUPD has been considering changing the name of the Timely Warning alert so that confusion brought to light by the one sent out on Oct. 17 can be avoided.

Rhodes said there is more crime on campus than just these recent incidents of violence.

“Obviously we do have underage drinking on campus, which is a crime,” Rhodes said. “There is rape on campus, and a lot of it goes unreported, which is a tragedy that that happens. There is that kind of crime that everyone kind of brushes under the rug and doesn’t like to talk about, but it is something that needs to be in our dialogue every day.”

While Jeggle said she has never really interacted with BUPD, she said the stories that she hears from friends and classmates, coupled with the recent events on campus, make her uneasy.

“If campus safety is their number one concern then there definitely is some room for improvement,” Jeggle said.  “There’s a lot more to campus safety than just frat parties or underage drinking. The areas that I am most worried about are my personal safety, the safety of my home and my safety when I am walking around on this campus”

Conley said officers do not go out looking to catch students drinking, but when it is obvious or putting the student or others in danger, they will enforce the law.

“When you see students walking down the street staggering and falling to one knee to pull a fifth bottle of vodka out and throw it under a car, it doesn’t take rocket science to see that you’ve got a potential issue here,” Conley said. “When you have an officer standing inside the foyer of Ross Hall, and a student walks in the door and staggers and falls into their RA and cusses out the officer, that’s not the officer’s problem, that’s the student’s problem.”

Conley said he would like to see other organizations on campus, such as student government, do something to help with the problem of underage drinking.

“They could do something more proactive about underage drinking and send more of a positive image, instead of wanting BUPD to turn a blind eye and not pay attention to it,” Conley said.

Underage drinkers shouldn’t be drinking, said Conley, not only because it can be dangerous, but because it is the law.

“We are certified police officers by the state of Indiana, and we have got to enforce the laws.” Conley said. “This isn’t just a BUPD policy.”

Rhodes said that racial profiling has also been a problem on campus. One incident that she described involved a black student who had been drinking underage and a police officer pulled his gun on him. Another involved another black student who was moving in and was pulled over for a traffic violation and subsequently questioned as to why she had such a nice TV in the back of her car.

“It is completely ridiculous,” Rhodes said. “It’s a lot of little things like that that no one really talks about and it is understandable that a lot of students that this has happened to don’t want to speak up because they don’t want to be a target of anything.”

Conley said that these incidents have been investigated and BUPD has worked to solve these problems internally.

“We did a meeting with Bust the B.U.B.B.L.E. and some members of the Black Student Union and explained what happened during that whole situation,” Conley said. “It is something that we would never tolerate.”

BUPD officers go through further diversity training than the state of Indiana requires, including training with the Diversity Department of the Indiana State Police and safe space training with the university.

Conley also said that he is always willing to meet with students regarding racial profiling or any other questions or concerns that they might have about law enforcement or BUPD itself.

Rhodes said that she didn’t think of Butler as an unsafe place but was aware of the possibility of crime on campus.

“We’ve always known we were really close to 38th Street, which isn’t the best neighborhood, but we never thought it would encroach on the Butler Bubble,” Rhodes said. “But, it seems like it has been, and we expect BUPD to be on top of it.”

Conley says he understands why some students might feel scared about campus safety after the recent events, but urged them to follow this advice:

“Continue to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, and make sure to call [BUPD] if you see something,” Conley said. “The safety [of our students] trumps everything.”

Rhodes said SGA President Jimmy Lardin has met with Conley and BUPD about recent issues with policing on campus. Nov. 1, SGA will hold a meeting with BUPD where they will discuss issues like racial profiling, over-ticketing, the Dawg Alert system and crime on campus.

The sophomore class officers sent out an email poll Oct. 25 asking students to fill out a Google form, as a way for their voices to be heard by submitting their concerns. These will also be addressed at the meeting.

“We want to bring them in to hear our grievances and hear what we have to say,” Rhodes said. “These are things that I personally have experienced, and all of my senators and their constituents have experienced.

Rhodes said the meeting will be closed to students, because SGA anticipates a lot of people are interested in the topic and want their concerns addressed, and the crowd may dominate the conversation and eliminate a healthy back and forth between student concerns and BUPD’s answers.
Students can watch the meeting in a live stream via Butler SGA’s Instagram account.

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