Despite the University of Richmond Police Department’s efforts to be a campus resource, some students have expressed concern about approaching officers because they fear getting in trouble for breaking rules.
According to the police department’s website, an overwhelming majority of crimes reported on campus in 2008, 2009 and 2010, were incidents involving liquor law violations.
There has to be some concern from students that if they get too out of control, they will be held liable for their actions, said Chief of Police David McCoy.
“I don’t want it to feel like we’re infringing, or that we’re somewhere we shouldn’t be,” McCoy said, “but the reality is that high alcohol leads to high risk, and if there is high risk, we have to have police around the area.”
Senior Kelsey Guttormsen thinks there are officers who would rather help students than get them in trouble, but that many officers seem to be jumping on opportunities to accuse students of breaking the rules, she said.
“If I needed to contact someone for help in the future, I would probably seek help outside of the campus police,” Guttormsen said.
Some underclassmen had different views on the police department. Peter Donohue, a first-year student, and sophomore Christine Hayden both said they would feel comfortable calling the police if they needed help.
“The goal of the campus police should be to look out for the safety of students,” Hayden said. “I think that really is their goal, but sometimes they seem to step in unnecessarily.”
The police officers have a lot of discretion, McCoy said, and the biggest action of the police department would be an arrest, but referrals to the dean were more common.
“Attitude, demeanor and respect all go into play in what the officer’s final decision is going to be,” McCoy said. “For the most part, the vast majority of students are pretty respectful, and that is why you see a low level of arrests.”
According to the department website, in 2010, there were 14 arrests made for liquor law violations, compared to 219 referrals to a dean.
The goal of the police department should be to keep students safe because they will never be able to fully stop underage drinking, sophomore Will Corkin said.
“The police break up parties, which causes students to roam around campus” Corkin said. “It would be safer if they allowed them to stay in an apartment.”
McCoy said there were a number of statistics that members of the police department looked at after each weekend, such as medical transports and the number of incidents besides medical emergencies.
“We had one weekend where we had eight medical transports,” he said. “Then it dropped to four, and this past weekend, it was three.”
The student handbook policy on alcohol protects students who are seeking medical attention from facing criminal charges, and McCoy said he was very supportive of that rule.
“It’s scary that someone would not call,” McCoy said. “If someone is to that point where a friend really needs to step in and help that person, then that is the higher good.”
Contact contributing writer Molly McGrath at email@example.com