Gender Violence on Campus Issue Brief
As law enforcement officers and campus public safety professionals, preventing and addressing sexual assault and all forms of gender-based violence is one of our paramount responsibilities. This includes protecting and supporting victims (survivors) and bringing perpetrators to justice by investigating and enforcing the law
IACLEA strongly supports transparency in the reporting of sexual assault and gender-based crimes. We encourage counseling and support programs for victims, education for all those on campus, along with greater authority, training and resources for campus law enforcement agencies.
Many victims continue to find it difficult to report an assault to law enforcement and public safety authorities for a variety of reasons. In many of these types of cases the victim may wish to remain anonymous, although in some states maintaining anonymity is limited by law. This may have the unintended cause of limiting the effectiveness of the response by campus law enforcement and public safety. Our ability to provide ongoing education to students about available resources is critical in addressing these issues.
IACLEA applauds changes brought about by Amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that went into effect on November 1, 2014. These measures enhanced campus administration efforts relating to educating students, investigating reports of unacceptable/unlawful behavior and administering justice. However, some of the ensuing regulations have proven to be counterproductive, as well as overly challenging for campus law enforcement to implement. IACLEA proposes the following to strengthen and improve VAWA and our ability to protect and serve our campus communities.
ACTIONS TO BETTER ADDRESS THESE ISSUES
Investigative Authority – When campus law enforcement has primary jurisdiction for the campus community they should be the lead investigative authority in response to reports of sexual assault and related crimes rather than the law enforcement agency of the unit of local government.
Current law does not recognize the difference between a campus law enforcement agency (sworn) and a campus security department (non-sworn) and can be interpreted to imply that non-campus local law enforcement agencies are by default better equipped and trained to investigate sexual assault and gender violence crimes. This failure to differentiate between the two has the ability to create a grossly inaccurate perception of our ability to serve, protect and assist victims (survivors) and bring perpetrators to justice. In fact, most campus law enforcement agencies can devote more trained and equipped resources to investigating sexual assaults than their municipal counterparts due to the case volume facing municipal departments.
Approximately 92 percent of public colleges and universities in the United States with a student enrollment of more than 2,500 have their own police department with sworn law enforcement officers. The corresponding number for private colleges and universities is 38 percent. In many cases, these police departments are larger, better trained and equipped than the local municipal or county law enforcement agency. Many have their own criminal investigation, evidence collection and special victims’ units. Typically, these agencies have established a rapport with their students that local law enforcement agencies, by the nature of their work, have not established.
A criminal investigation by a campus law enforcement agency is independent of the administrative investigation required by Title IX. Although the investigations are independent of each other, the campus law enforcement agency is better positioned than a local law enforcement agency to coordinate the criminal investigation with the Title IX investigation so that the trauma to the victim (survivor) is minimized.
Temporary Suspension of Administrative Investigations – In some cases, an administrative investigation may hinder or compromise a criminal investigation.
Accordingly, IACLEA supports proposals that allows for the temporary suspension of administrative investigations at the request of law enforcement. Our support is premised on the institution being required to take reasonable interim measures to alleviate a hostile environment and to provide the complainant and accused with regular status updates in writing.
Memorandums of Understanding – In general, institutions of higher education – and more specifically campus law enforcement – have a collaborative and professional working relationship with local law enforcement, which fosters the necessary sharing of information. IACLEA believes these organic relationships produce more beneficial outcomes for serving justice than efforts proposed that may require and rigidly define such relationships through potentially complicated and inflexible memorandums of understanding.
IACLEA supports language in the PROSPER Act recommending that any memorandum of understanding between campus law enforcement and local law enforcement should “clarify the relationship and delineate the responsibilities” of each agency.
Again, it is essential that federal legislation be clear that when an institution of higher education has a campus police department, any MOU is between the campus police and local police department only; not between the “institution” and the local police department. An MOU between an institution and a local law enforcement agency is appropriate when the college or university does not have its own police department and relies on the local agency for all its law enforcement services.
Actions in Good Faith – Congress should acknowledge good faith efforts by institutions and their campus law enforcement officers in the pursuit of their roles and responsibilities under the Clery Act and Title IX, and not take overly punitive actions when genuine errors occur in pursuit of campus safety.
For additional information, please contact IACLEA Director of Government & External Relations, Jeff Allison, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 618-8118.