U. Texas police department to look into student's complaint

By: Wes Ferguson
Daily Texan
April 15, 2003, Tuesday

A University of Texas-Austin student who accused a campus police officer of racial profiling during an encounter at the Texas Union filed a written complaint Monday with the University of Texas Police Department.

The complaint initiates an internal investigation into the incident. Kevin Curry, a management information systems senior, said he was stopped, questioned and asked for two forms of identification after he had been playing a piano on the third floor of the Union.

Usually, Curry said, the piano is locked. But on Jan. 18, as he waited for a fraternity meeting on the fourth floor, he found it open and began playing. When he saw UTPD officer Glen Koen approach him, he stopped and got up to leave, which Koen found suspicious, according to Koen's incident report. Koen detained Curry in the stairwell and asked for his student identification.

"I believe that race was a factor when [Koen] came up and stopped me," Curry said. "If he was just doing a routine ID check, ... why did he follow me? Why wasn't my initial form of ID good enough for him?"

In Koen's incident report, he said he requested a second form of identification because Curry's ID card was "worn and faded," and let him go after a dispatcher verified Curry's status as a UT student.

According to the report, Curry asked if he had been stopped because he is black, and Koen replied that he was stopped because an ID is required on the third, fourth and fifth floors of the Texas Union.

"I further explained that I found his behavior suspicious and somewhat furtive," Koen wrote.

Lt. Don Verett, responsible for UTPD's internal affairs, will handle the investigation, which could take up to two or three months, according to the department. UTPD Chief Jeff Van Slyke and the UT System police director will then review Verett's findings, Van Slyke said.

Van Slyke would not comment on the specific complaint.

"We want to make sure it's done correctly, like we do any other investigation," he said. "To comment on it now would hurt the credibility and integrity of the complaint process and be disrespectful to the complainant."

Some students have questioned the credibility of the complaint process, saying that it's too hard for police to remain objective when investigating one of their own. A resolution introduced during a Student Government meeting last week calls for an SG oversight committee to field student complaints.

"I don't think that any student is going to feel comfortable going to UTPD with a complaint against them," Curry said. "You would want some kind of outside source to go to and investigate the complaint."

Curry said he filed the complaint to make sure that his dissatisfaction went on public record, and to encourage other students to speak up when they have a complaint against the department. But Van Slyke's previous comments about Curry's claims have led Curry to believe that the department will not be objective in its investigation.

In February, Van Slyke told The Daily Texan, "I cannot change how somebody feels. We are not here to be a feel-good people. People want to vent, and they feel like they have been mistreated. Truth and reality are different than how people feel."

Van Slyke would not speak about his comments on Monday. Curry said that Van Slyke's comments "justified the need for an oversight committee, because immediately he dismissed the claims and had some other insensitive comments."

Curry said that he waited more than two months to file his complaint because he had been busy with school activities and needed time to organize his claims.