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Should Colleges Police Themselves?

Colleges and universities like to do their own policing. If nothing else, self-policing (and self-reporting) keeps crime stats down, something that is important when trying to attract students and faculty.

However, this means that some crimes may be swept under the rug without charges being brought. Take, for example, the recent Penn State sex crime scandal. University authorities knew for years that they had a problem, but did not tell authorities.

An even more recent scandal, involving Yale University's star quarterback, arose from a supposedly anonymous accusation that resulted in an informal investigation. However, it is anything but anonymous; it is front page news throughout the country.

Recent episodes such as these underscore the dangers of having universities handle sex crime cases internally. In New Jersey, state schools like Rutgers are more likely to handle sex crime cases appropriately. However, private colleges generally have limited police or security staff, and seldom have the type of training or experience essential for handling sex crimes.

They have limited understanding of the importance of protecting both the victim and the alleged assailant. They almost never have the facilities for handling evidence of the kind used in sex crime prosecutions. And while they are determining how to handle the case, evidence may disappear and witnesses may change their minds.

If you are either accused of a sex crime or are a victim, it is usually better to have the police involved rather than relying on campus security. The potential negative consequences - bungled trials, false accusations - are almost always a strong reason for protecting yourself through the regular legal system.

Source: NJ.com, "Universities must get out of law enforcement on sex assaults," Feb. 6, 2012.

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