Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Colby meet BUSTED

According to the Associated Press, police in Waterville, Maine are going to start going undercover to bust underage drinkers at Colby College.
Undercover work might involve sending some officers to campus to sit in parked cars and watch the activities of students, while other officers will try to blend in at off-campus house parties, [Waterville Deputy Police Chief Joseph] Massey said.
One of the saddest aspects of this new policy is that it appears to be welcomed by campus officials.
Colby spokesman Stephen Collins said college officials do not mind the added police attention, even if it means sending in plainclothes officers. But Collins said some parties are for students over 21 years old and are legal.
Certainly everyone on campus ought to be concerned about limiting alcohol poisoning, property damage and assaults, especially sexual assaults, that are sometimes an unfortunate consequence of people drinking to excess. Responsible behavior among all drinkers ought to be encouraged, especially among 18-20 year old students.

Using the police to arrest minors undermines the university's ability to build trust and educate their students honestly about alcohol. Campus officials should resist the police coming into their community and making criminals out of otherwise hard-working students.

The University of Wisconsin - Madison used to have a similar program called Operation Sting. Every September the MPD sent undercover police into students' private homes in order to find underage drinkers. Madison students, working with their local elected officials, got the mayor to abandon the program. Together, Colby students can do the same.

In the meantime, every student at Colby should get a copy of BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. It makes a great stocking stuffer and it has the added bonus of possibly keeping you and your friends out of jail!


Justin Holmes said...

It's hard to understand why the college campus is becoming a police state - a large scale laboratory for the society?

I never heard that story about Madison. Sounds like an example of successful drug policy reform in a college community. How much do you know about it? Could some information be sent to the student government at Colby?

Jonathan Perri said...

At Franklin Pierce College in Rindge NH, the Rindge police do the same thing. They hide in cars and watch students, roam the campus in plain clothes, arresting and harrassing students for open containers and internal possession.
It has in no way had an impact on the amount of alcohol use on campus. THese police should be making sure students are getting around campus safely at night, instead of creating problems for them.

Dan Goldman said...

Justin and Jon,

There's not a lot online that I could find about Operation Sting, it ended before either of the UW-Madison student papers began their current archives.

I've been in touch with some of the key local political reps who helped students convince the Mayor not to re-apply for the federal grant that helped pay for the additional police costs, essentially killing the program. They may remember some of the successful tactics that I forgot.

Keep in mind though, costs may be less of an issue on other campuses, especially where the campus or local police literally have nothing better to do. But the intelligent use of precious police resources is always an issue and it should get raised continuously.

Also, the grant for Op Sting was from the Dept. of Transportation and was geared towards reducing drunk driving, which wasn't really a problem in Madison, as most students walked to the bars and house parties. Again, in other locales, this can be a greater concern.

But rest assured, SSDP is committed to helping students lobby for sensible drug AND alcohol policies on campus. I think some alcohol education could go a long way to solving most, but certainly not all, of the problems associated with excessive drinking on campus.

The single biggest factor in helping the UW-Madison students get rid of Operation Sting was a unified student voice through a coalition of the student government, student orgs. and individuals, combined with the weight of local elected leaders and op-eds in the campus paper, etc.

Like any other campaign, it took allies and a great deal of effort and more than a couple of years to complete the job. We're here to help anyone, on any campus, develop a campaign strategy to oppose these punitive policies at their college or university.