Transparency is the backbone of a successful campus police department.
At least for the past forty years or so, the Bradley University Police Department granted The Scout access to photocopies of original police reports. We in turn have established a practice of leaving all names out of the police reports, with very few exceptions. Those exceptions were expanded upon and turned into full-length stories.
BUPD was without a police chief for part of last year, and during that time, we were still granted full access to the reports.
Under the new police chief Brian Joschko, our former process for reading and reporting on the police reports is obsolete. We now receive sanitized, filtered police reports, information typed up in a log giving us the gist of what happened.
Certain administrators, including Vice President for Student Affairs Alan Galsky, Associate Vice President for University Communications Shelley Epstein and the chief himself, argue that we are receiving whatever we need to put police reports in the paper. That may be so, but there is always more to the story than what we print.
Not only that, but we want the security of knowing that if there would be a future report where we needed more information, it would be available to us. The concern we have after so many years of complete transparency is this: What is there to hide?
According to administration, there are a couple of things. One, the identity of minors, which comes up maybe once a year. And two, the names of victims as a safety measure. On this point, we know some cases are sensitive, and we are open to working with the police on those instances.
We are not saying that BUPD is intentionally hiding information from us, but we absolutely have to question it. It would be irresponsible not to. Full access is a right that the entire student body, but at the very least the paper, has. Joschko said he spoke with the safety and security council that came to assess Bradley, and that this would be the best way to go about communicating the information with us.
This is not just a decision made on his part. This is clearly something administration wants, something they may have wanted for quite some time.
While we acknowledge that these typed reports contain more information than the required daily crime log, we are not going to ignore that a complete communicative overhaul was a bit excessive. When we were allowed to look over the entire police report, we did not abuse that power. And we are requesting that power again.
We are not creeps, we are not voyeurs. We are the media. If we don’t have the ability to look over the shoulder of our police department, then who does? When it comes to campus safety, we want as much information available to us as possible.
These are not rent-a-cops. They are full-fledged, armed Illinois police officers with arrest powers. They may be affiliated with a private university, but what they do with that power should not be private. It certainly isn’t when it comes to the Peoria police or the Peoria County Sheriff’s office or any other law enforcement officers BU students may encounter. And despite all that, they legally do not have to give us the original reports. They do not have to comply with the Freedom of Information Act. And that is what makes us uncomfortable.
But the truth is worth fighting for, and that is something we are prepared to do and will continue to do week after week.