Editorial 9.14.12: BUPD, University need to keep students aware

On Monday night Bradley’s campus was alive. Students of all ages were celebrating the end of recruitment at Late Night BU as well as in other social settings and off-campus houses.

That same evening a student was held at gun point and robbed. Unaware of what had happened, students on campus moved freely on off-campus streets without worry.

In light of that robbery,  described in this week’s article “Student robbed at gunpoint; investigation ongoing,” we believe the Bradley University Police Department fell short on their duties to protect students.

Nearly 17 hours after the incident an email was sent to students. BUPD Chief of Police Brian Joschko said the delayed email was justified, as a suspect was captured minutes after the student called to report the robbery. However, the suspect was released several hours later, because there was not enough evidence to convict him.

Joschko said he was not sure exactly how long it took for the police to catch the suspect, but that it was less than half an hour. Even if they caught a suspect five minutes into a search, students should have known about it.

In this situation, the police determined they had the wrong man in custody. If that’s the case, then the actual robber was still out there, possibly remaining in a neighborhood heavily populated with students. We can’t say for sure. But in a situation like that, the police should err on the side of caution.

It is understandable that the police don’t want to turn emergency alerts into a cry-wolf situation of desensitization, but the nature of an email is informative. It is not meant to alarm or require action, like the Forewarn text and PA system is.

So why was there any hesitation? What risk is associated with informing students and faculty of what’s going on in their backyard?

At the very least, an email to say “This just happened at this location. Please be careful when you’re walking at night,” would remind students to remain alert when they are by themselves.

In addition to that, a Late Night BU was hosted Monday night. Plenty of students were out, walking to the Markin Center, throughout the night. It would have been beneficial to notify them that an armed robbery had recently taken place, and they should retain some measure of caution while walking home. Students are aware that they always need to be careful, but it is also important that students have a accurate understanding of crime and activity that takes place in the neighborhoods surrounding campus.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the BUPD hesitated on alerting campus to a potential safety hazard.

Last April, a shot was fired into the ceiling at Jimmy John’s on Main Street just before 11 p.m. Instead of notifying students when the suspect fled into the Bradley community, an email was distributed an hour later informing them of the incident. By not notifying students, the safety of the student body was put at risk.

In the next editorial following that incident, titled “Armed robbery calls for instant texts alerts,” the Scout criticized the BUPD for not only the late email warning, but the choice to send an email in general, as opposed to a more immediate campus warning.

We finished the year with hopes the BUPD would compose a formal guideline; one that would indicate what would warrant a text, an email or a Forewarn alert, including a PA announcement instructing students how to proceed.

The only guidelines now in place state that forewarn alerts “are restricted to life-threatening or potentially life-threatening incidents,” and timely alerts are for situations that “represent a serious threat to students and employees.”

There is still a lot of room for interpretation and second-guessing in that definition.

Again we urge that the police department takes the time to create a functional, specific set of guidelines that they can follow in any dangerous, or potentially dangerous, situation. And they should consider faculty, staff and especially student feedback in that policy, because Bradley University is their home.

Student awareness and a transparent university police department are both essential elements of a safe campus environment. The lines of communication need to be open and active to work effectively. After all, the BUPD is here to protect and serve the student body.