DPS’s shady behavior

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Saint Louis University prides themselves on keeping students safe. The Department of Public Safety is touted as the largest licensed regional group of security in St. Louis. On an urban campus, this is extremely important. As students tour campus and ask questions, guides and faculty are always sure to reinforce that students should feel safe because of the 80 DPS officers on staff who patrol at all hours. However, you should not blindly accept that a university department is only interested in your safety; DPS has many serious flaws.

On Sunday, Feb. 5, I witnessed a large DPS presence on the corner of South Grand and Laclede. There was a female pedestrian lying in the street, apparently convulsing. DPS officers were quick to move students away from the incident, giving the woman some privacy and giving EMS room to work. I was curious as to what happened, so I waited until Monday to check the crime and emergency log. Peculiarly, there was no mention of this incident whatsoever. I immediately emailed DPS. Seven hours later, I received a bland reply:

“Mr Fox (sic) a vehicular accident is not an incident that is required to be placed on a crime log. Thank you for your interest.”

This sparked a moment of internal outrage. Due to the Clery Act, enacted in 1990, after the murder of Jeanne Clery, any university receiving federal funding must record all reported crimes in a public crime log. The Clery Act does a good job defining the boundaries and crimes that need to be recorded, but certain exemptions such as “vehicular accident[s]” greatly reduce its effectiveness. The intention of the act is to allow the public to understand the relative safety of a college campus. By not reporting vehicular incidents, we greatly reduce the usefulness of this information.

This is not the only issue that plagues DPS. While researching policies for this piece, I was unable to access the St. Louis Campus Emergency Response Plan. The link is dead, leading to a 404 error page. The URL hints that the policy has not been updated since nearly seven years ago. I also noticed a troubling statement on the federal government’s website for campus safety.

The crime data reported by the institutions have not been subjected to independent verification by the U.S. Department of Education. Therefore, the Department cannot vouch for the accuracy of the data reported here.

No one is really holding universities responsible for crimes and emergencies.

There was also an incident that happened on Tuesday, Feb. 7. DPS arrested a subject for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis. The subject was acting erratic and driving a moped on West Pine. There was no notification from DPS that a subject was arrested on campus, nor was there a warning when it could have been a threat to public safety. This incident is on the log, however, it fails to mention that the subject was operating a moped at the time of his arrest. By not reporting the incident fully, it perpetuated rumors around campus, something that has happened before.

I was told, but can not confirm, that SLU policy obligates reporting this incident. There was discussion of whether or not SLU obeyed its own policy.

Vehicles should not get exclusion from the crime log. Bob Duffy, a professor in the Communication Department, knows the narrative all too well. Duffy is an avid cyclist, and on Feb. 7, between Laclede and Sarah, he was hit by a driver in a large, black pickup. The driver fled the scene.

Whether you are a student, pedestrian, cyclist or driver on this campus, you have the right to know what happens when vehicles cause emergency situations.

Saint Louis University and the Department of Public Safety need to clear up the transparency issues they are having. Even if it isn’t mandated by federal law, what do you have to hide by not reporting vehicular incidents? Non-action isn’t acceptable, but it’s a trait that DPS is known for.