University safety officials began manually filming what they consider disturbing campus safety incidents last month, in reaction to a brawl that erupted in September outside Reiss Science Building that left three safety officers injured.

Vice President for University Safety David Morrell said that since the beginning of October, the Department of Public Safety has been considering launching a project that would require a DPS officer responding to a “large-scale and significant” incident to film it for later DPS review. An incident was filmed by a DPS officer last month, and officials are unsure whether they will continue to film disturbances in this manner.

Morrell said that the purpose of the program is not to identify and prosecute involved parties, but rather to evaluate how the incident played out and to gather ideas on how to improve DPS responses.

The impetus for the program was an altercation in September outside Reiss involving some students from other universities. The incident required Metropolitan Police Department officers to respond and left three DPS officers and two students in need of medical attention.

“The Reiss incident indicates that we need to reevaluate how DPS responds, is trained and is equipped,” Morrell said. “The purpose is to be able to capture the essence in dealing with how DPS responds and how . the administration deals with student activities.”

Morrell said that students should not feel as if their privacy is being violated.

“The purpose of this is not to prosecute, only to inform DPS in how they can and should respond,” Morrell said. “[We don’t want to] perpetrate individuals but [see] the extent to which the incident played out. . It would have been nice to have a film of the Reiss incident.”

DPS Director Darryl Harrison declined to comment on the new policy.

The program was first tested on the night of Jan. 27 when a DPS officer was sent to film a disturbance outside Henle Village. The officer was the first and, so far, the only one sent to record an incident.

Margot Murphy (SFS ’08), who witnessed the filming, said that the officer was dressed in plain clothes and was reluctant to respond to questioning when she and a friend approached him. Murphy said that she assumed that the officer was filming students leaving a party and did not witness any violence.

Murphy said that after she complained to another DPS officer on the scene, two more officers arrived and spoke to the cameraman, who stopped filming as the crowd thinned out.

Morrell said that DPS and the Office of Student Affairs will review the tape, which will be recorded over after 30 days, as is customary with all films that DPS compiles. Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, said that his office was not involved in the decision to start the filming but has agreed to take part in the review of the tape.

Morrell said that the filming was experimental and that safety officials will decide whether or not to continue the program after the tape is reviewed.

“We decided to curtail any more filming as of now . until we determine if we want to continue this action,” orrell said.

Morrell said that the university already has several fixed cameras set up in hidden locations to capture major incidents that take place and that it plans to add more. The purpose of the manual filming is to record disturbances in areas without fixed cameras.

“Filming is going on all the time,” Morrell said.

According to Morrell, if DPS, the Office of Student Affairs and the university’s office of general counsel decide to continue the manual filming, it will only be until all the “critical areas” of campus are covered by hidden cameras.

Murphy said that her only complaint was that none of the DPS officers would tell her what they were doing.

“If I’m on a tape, I think I deserve to know why and what it’s being used for . especially when students are at their weakest point,” Murphy said. “I’m always in favor of increasing security, but they weren’t very sympathetic with the fact that we were uncomfortable being on camera.”

“It’s not appropriate for someone on campus who doesn’t make himself known to be filming,” said Monica Pedroza (COL ’08), who was with Murphy when she witnessed the filming.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.