Federal law, specifically the Clery Act, requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funds to share information regarding crimes on campus, and efforts to improve campus safety, and to keep the public informed concerning crime on and near the campus. The schools provide an annual security report containing the information, and the report is accessible to the public. The Act also requires victim support for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking, and provides that the schools set forth specific procedures regarding emergency notifications and related matters.
At the center of the law is, of course, is the reporting of campus crime. And according to a lawsuit filed against Arizona State University law month, the university has been falsifying crime statistics in an alleged effort to make the campus appear safer than it actually is. The plaintiffs in the case are a half dozen current and former employees of ASU. Four of the six are former ASU police officers, and the remaining two plaintiffs are one former and one current police aide. In addition to claiming false reporting and changing crime classifications, the plaintiffs also say that the university has violated their First Amendment rights by punishing anyone who speaks out about the issue.
The lawsuit claims that employees of the university were directed to make changes in the reported crime statistics in an effort to hide from the community the crime occurring at and around the campus. When individuals spoke up about the alleged deception, and criticized the ASU police department, the lawsuit says the individuals were harassed, including interrogations, internal investigations, and threats of dismissal. One man states that he was forced into retirement as a result of being harassed on the issue by the university police.
There are about a dozen defendants in the suit, including the Arizona Board of Regents, the former and current ASU police chiefs, and a number of other ASU employees.
As disturbing as these accusations are, they are not at all rare. In fact, similar allegations have surfaced over the years concerning many police departments across the country, including New York, Broward County (Florida), New Orleans, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
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