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Campus Police Review

Memo 2

Trivia, Not Substance:
The Administration Insults Us Again


UIS Senators


Dennis Fox, Associate Professor of Legal Studies


April 24, 1997


Trivia, Not Substance: The Administration Insults Us Again

In her April 23 memo to Luther Skelton, Chancellor Lynn announced UIS's new procedures for disposing of complaints about campus police. She is sending the procedures to the Campus Senate "for information purposes" but she makes it clear she is already implementing the policy. The Senate is invited to "consider possible modifications of the administrative procedures" but modifications to the substance of the Review Panel's work are apparently out of bounds.

As a member of the 1994-95 Faculty Senate that created the Police Review Panel "to accept and review complaints" about police activities, I am astonished that the Chancellor imagines her proposed policy satisfies campus concerns. I am outraged, though not surprised, that she has implemented this policy without Senate input. Chancellor Lynn's unilateral action parallels her effort two years ago to impose draconian limits on campus speech, an effort that the Senate and faculty union successfully resisted.

Although the Chancellor has left no significant role for Senate involvement, I urge the Senate to analyze the complaint policy anyway to see if it meets the campus's substantive concerns. Getting bogged down on minor procedures won't improve the policy. The Chancellor can always ignore Senate input--she has done so before and will do it again--but it's time the Senate followed through on its obligation to address campus concerns about safety as well as governance.

The policy has one central flaw: it does not provide for the Police Review Panel "to accept and review complaints." Instead, the panel merely passes paperwork back and forth between the complainant and whatever outside agency or internal administrator is chosen to investigate. This is a far cry from the assurances made when the police force was proposed and implemented. Did the administration mean three years ago that promises to have the panel "review" complaints did not actually mean "investigate"? If so, why didn't they say this at the time?

I have no quarrel with passing along complaints to outside agencies such as the State Police when required to do so by law, or with bringing in appropriate administrators to investigate allegations under their jurisdiction. What concerns me is that under Lynn's policy the review panel has no power even to ask questions about what happened! In its final report the panel can recommend policy changes, but the Panel's concerns are apparently limited to whatever information the investigator chooses to disclose. The panel cannot ask the investigator any questions. The panel cannot ask the complainant or the police officers or the witnesses any questions. The entire process is a sham, providing the appearance of panel involvement without any substance whatsoever.

Why am I concerned?

Why is it important for a Review Panel representing the different campus constituencies to investigate complaints? What's wrong with letting "trained investigators" do the entire job?

First, as a matter of principle, this isn't what we were led to expect and it certainly is not what the Senate two years ago intended. There should be some effort to have the administration stick to its word and not get by on technicalities. What are the implications for current campus issues where the administration's basic assurances come in the same "trust-me" form?

There's a more significant factor. It may be the case that, with more-or-less routine complaints, the work of non-panel investigators might be sufficient. But some of the specific agencies and administrators Lynn's policy relies upon have already demonstrated an unacceptable pro-administration and/or pro-police bias.

For example, two years ago, when campus police arrested Ron Sakolsky and me when we handed out leaflets, we filed complaints. In the absence of campus procedures, the primary complaint about police abuse was sent to the State Police. An investigator interviewed me for an hour and a half, explaining how he would investigate and what kind of report he would write. His final report, however, showed he did not do as he had promised. I'm not talking here about his conclusions--that's a matter about which people can disagree--I'm talking about his method of investigation. He told me he would have three or four investigators interview everyone at the event, even if it took months, which he said was the State Police's normal practice; instead, he interviewed only 16 carefully selected people and rushed the report to early conclusion. He did not interview Bill Clutter, a former Springfield alderman who had written a letter to the editor supporting Ron's version of the events. He did not interview others at the event whose perspective matched Ron's. He did not even interview Ron about Ron's own complaint! What he did do was lie to me. And when I wrote a letter of complaint to him and his superior, I received no response.

Another issue: Under Lynn's policy, Vice Chancellor for Business and Administrative Services Carl Long investigates allegations of police failure to provide appropriate services. Has the Vice Chancellor ever shown any sign of taking on-campus complaints seriously? My own complaints to him about managerial misconduct (such as an old complaint about the cafeteria manager ordering union leaflets removed from cafeteria tables) have just been blown off. Why should we expect him to investigate his police any differently? Can those who tell me that complaints about police insensitivity to women have gone unresolved have any confidence in administrators who have failed to address this issue effectively in the past?

The bottom line is this: Can we really trust our administration--or any administration--to investigate itself?

The long-awaited policy is a farce. Rather than developing a model policy for the campus community to oversee the work of its police force, it merely formalizes an inadequate status quo. Under Lynn's policy, as a campus community we have no power to uncover abuses. We have no power to insist that our questions get answered. Indeed, we have no right to ask questions. The policy is entirely inadequate, and the Senate should say so.


Police Review Panel Chronology (4/97): failure to establish police complaint procedure
memo to faculty proposing a Senate resolution (4/28/97)
letter to editor about problems with campus police force (1/96)
unresolved issues (1995)

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