Public Safety officer interactions: a breakdown

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Everyone knows what Public Safety is, but not everyone knows what happens after someone experiences an interaction with a Public Safety officer for a violation. To clarify this issue, The DePauw sat down with Director of Public Safety Angela Nally.

According to Nally, the primary task of a Public Safety officer, or any police officer for that matter, is to gather information and protect individuals who might be subject to harm.

If a student has an interaction with an officer for violating the code of conduct found in the student handbook, one of two things may result: first, the student will be referred to the community standards process, which takes place every Monday afternoon. According to Nally, an example of this would be a minor possessing a few beers in his or her room--a relatively low-scale violation.

If the student’s behavior is a higher-scale violation, such as not cooperating with an officer, or if the action violates both the student handbook as well as Indiana state law, the student will be referred to both community standards and the Putnam County prosecutor for criminal charges.

“We worked with our prosecutor to make that decision about what things we will send and what things we will not send,” Nally explained. “If you have someone who's drinking and fighting and tearing up stuff, that’s not just drinking anymore. So those kinds of behaviors are likely to be referred to both those systems.”

Many students are uneducated about this process, however, and are confused as to how it operates.

“I knew about community standards, then I assumed that if it was something community standards didn’t want to deal with, they just turned it over to the state," said first-year Shelby Armstrong.

First-year Don Gettlefinger did not realize that some cases were turned over to the prosecutor’s office at all.

“I thought that all cases were handled directly through the school and that Public Safety was their own entity, so they handled all of the problems," Gettlefinger said. "I didn’t realize that it was ever brought to the prosecutor’s office."

However, it is ultimately community standards' and/or the prosecutor’s decision to charge a student with a violation. In fact, Nally stated that they oftentimes make referrals to the prosecutor’s office, and the prosecutor chooses not to file charges or chooses to file a different charge than the original.

In the same way, just because a student may have an interaction with an officer and get referred to Community Standards does not mean the student will be charged.

Nally said there are three levels of results of officer interactions. The first is when the student walks away and is referred to community standards. In the second level, the student walks away, is referred to community standards and receives a ticket or a referral to the prosecutor. The final level is a custodial arrest.