Lack of communication between police, students a problem
Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 22:11
Dear Bruce Harber, director of Police Services,
I appreciate the email you sent letting the campus community know about two men on campus stealing peoples’ cell phones.
I think it is important for those of us who spend a great deal of time on this campus to be aware of crimes that occur here, so we can take the appropriate safety measures needed.
It infuriates me, however, that nowhere in that email did you think it necessary to tell us that your officers were looking for an alleged rapist. You told a reporter yesterday that when you sent the cell phone theft email you didn’t know the alleged crime involved rape, but rather your office was investigating an aggravated assault.
That’s odd to me, because the victim told me she gave police all details of the crime around 3 a.m. the day it occurred. Regardless of when your office found out, you never attempted to let students know such an offender was roaming campus.
Your reason for not doing so, you said, is that the suspect — 22-year-old Cortney Adkins — was acquainted with the victim. You say this means the situation was isolated; therefore Adkins wasn’t a threat to anyone else, and I guess you felt the campus community didn’t need to know he was still at large.
Nine women students I spoke with today, all of whom live in Carpenter, disagree with you. They were upset police never thought it was important to let them know Adkins, who was living in their complex though he isn’t a student, was arrested for rape charges.
You say that because he was acquainted with the victim of Monday’s incident, no one else would need to worry about him harming them. Did it not occur to you that he might have met other women besides the victim police spoke to?
In fact, one of the nine women, a news editor at the Helmsman, said she didn’t know Adkins, but he had been in her apartment with her suitemate last week. Did you not feel it necessary to warn these other acquaintances that Adkins was believed to be somewhere on campus and may have just sexually assaulted a woman he had known for less than a month?
By your interpretation of the law, you weren’t required to email us.
Yet not doing so sends a loud message to students that says you aren’t interested in protecting and informing them. Even after reports of the crime came out in the media, neither you nor any other University administrator sent an email to students cautioning or reassuring us of our safety.
You told a Helmsman reporter yesterday, “I was a little surprised I hadn’t heard from y’all. … I thought you guys must be in class or something because I was really surprised I didn’t hear from you guys earlier.”
I’m not sure how you expected us to know about the incident since no one in your office told us about it when we were there earlier that day asking about recent campus crimes. You asked if it was the place of the secretary to let the reporter know about the arrest when the reporter didn’t specifically ask, “Has there been a rape?”
If need be, I can call you every day and specifically ask if there has been a reported rape, murder, etc. If that is what it takes for me to make sure I can let readers know of such serious crimes, I’m willing to do so.
But better yet, next time you are so shocked you haven’t heard from us, please feel free to call me at any hour. Unlike you, who said you can only provide specifics about campus crimes between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., I field calls every day of the week any hour of the day.
As someone who provides information to the campus community — information that at times has an impact to their safety — I am more than willing to make myself available 24/7 to anyone who has an important message for those The Helmsman reaches.
Hiding news doesn’t stop it from coming out — it only creates a story that shows how your office made no effort to let students know of a serious crime.
Unfortunately, I have little hope you and your office are now going to consider the interests of students any more than you all have shown in this most recent incident. After all, I’ve read a number of editorials past Helmsman editors have written about your office’s lack of communication with students, and little has changed thus far.
Regardless, I’m still hoping the reasonable side of you provokes you to agree that you did a disservice to the campus community when you didn’t tell us about Monday’s crime.
I’m hoping your integrity and role as director of public safety will trump whatever caused you to not inform us and maybe you will do so in the future.