A group of state senators introduced a bill Monday requiring open access to campus police records -- a proposal which would require the University to change the way it handles inquiries about campus crime. And State Senator Richard Tilghman, the bill's main sponsor, said earlier this month that he thought the bill would meet little opposition. "I can't imagine a great groundswell of opinion against it," Tilghman (R-Bryn Mawr) said earlier this month. "Its time has come. Hopefully, it will pass." The bill would require campus police departments to maintain a daily crime log of all "responses to valid complaints received, crimes reported, the names and addresses of persons arrested and the charges against such persons arrested." It would also mandate that police departments make these records available to the public during regular business hours. Currently, University Police does not allow public access to its files. Instead, police officers answer all inquiries about campus crime at the officers' discretion. Also, the department does not release complete descriptions of suspects and has in the past not told the University community about reported rapes, attempted rapes or sexual assaults until asked directly about the specific incidents. The University's policy is similar to other colleges and universities statewide. It is unclear whether the administration supports the bill. Assistant Vice President for Commonwealth Relations James Shada and Director of Commonwealth Relations Paul Cribbins were unavailable for comment yesterday. The bill was immediately referred to the Senate Education Committee, but it is not certain when the committee will discuss the bill. Neither Education Committee Chairperson James Rhoades nor the committee's executive director were available for comment yesterday. Mark Goodman, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Student Press Law Cener, said students at other colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are also unable to see police files. While Goodman said he is not sure how the bill will fare, he said college and university efforts to lobby against the bill might backfire against them. "[They're] going to have a very difficult time making that argument without looking very bad," said Goodman, whose organization monitors open-record legislation across the country. "What it suggests is that they are trying to cover up campus crime." Goodman said his organization is in the process of inform college newspapers across the state about the bill and how it might affect them. Also, Tilghman's legislative assistant Greg Jordan said Security on Campus will lobby the state Senate for the bill. Jordan added he knows of no lobbying effort against the bill although colleges and universities have been seeking copies of it.Comments powered by Disqus
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