UT students want group to handle police complaints

Resolution follows campus incidents that some claim were racially motivated

By Erik Rodriguez
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Student leaders at the University of Texas passed a resolution Tuesday night calling for a committee that would allow students to lodge complaints independently against university police.

The resolution is the latest development after a series of what students call racially motivated incidents in recent months involving the UT Police Department, including occasions where students said police racially profiled one student and assaulted another. In February, UT President Larry Faulkner created a panel of faculty members, students and staff members to review university policies.

Ben Durham, a UT Student Government member and author of the resolution, said his aim wasn't to put pressure on UT police but to allow students to better communicate with police officials.

"We talk about how we think the things that the UTPD are doing are good, but there needs to be some kind of process that comes about that's more sufficient than the one in place," Durham said.

Currently, complaints against UT officers are investigated internally by university police. The committee that student leaders are asking for would allow students to file independent complaints anonymously, Durham said. The resolution also praised the department for reducing crime on campus and increasing arrests.

Last month, UT student Jonathan Bougie said he was assaulted by police after he was found writing in chalk the day before an anti-war protest on campus. UT Police Chief Jeffrey Van Slyke denied the allegation, saying Bougie tried to flee and had to be apprehended. In February, student Kevin Curry said he was racially profiled by UT police after an officer stopped him to check his identification card at the Texas Union on campus.

A subsequent review of nearly 650 police ID checks across campus revealed that Asian and African American students were being stopped at rates higher than their representation on campus.

Curry filed a formal complaint with the department on Monday, and that will trigger an internal police investigation, said Don Hale, a university spokesman.

Durham said a separate committee would allow students to report their concerns without fear of reprisal.

"We're trying to create a space where students can feel comfortable airing their complaints," he said.

erodriguez@statesman.com; 445-3673