|A Patriot Ledger series: Summary | PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | UPDATES|
FIX TICKET POLICY, CAMPUS COPS SAY
State is taking away their right to writeBy DAN DeLEO ~ The Patriot Ledger
Bridgewater State College campus police are blasting orders from the state to give up their motor vehicle citation books and quit writing tickets, enforcement tools officers say they need to battle everything from underage drinking to speeding to drunken driving.
The controversy stems from a new, stricter interpretation of state law, which does not explicitly give state college campus police officers the power to issue citations but does not deny them that authority either.
“We’ve been issuing these citations for 38 years and it was never an issue,” said Bridgewater State College campus Police Chief David H. Tillinghast. “Now, they’re telling us we can’t. And it’s getting to the point where we won’t have any citations left.”
Matt Shedd, president of the Massachusetts chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the new policy makes no sense at a time when underage drinking and college binge drinking are making headlines nationwide.
“We don’t understand the logic here,” Shedd said. “(On college campuses) there is such a high concentration of young people who are drinking and often driving, too.”
Campus police chiefs at state colleges in Framingham, Salem and Westfield agree. Some are rationing the few tickets they have left, only giving out warnings.
The ruling came down from the state Department of Public Safety several years ago, but campus police are just beginning to feel the effects of it because they are only now running low on citations. And their requests for more are being denied by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
“If (state college campus police) are still issuing motor vehicle citations, they are breaking the law and shouldn’t be doing that,” said Katie Ford, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Public Safety. “They should be enforcing campus parking violations only.”
Officials with the Department of Public Safety and the Registry say the new policy conforms to the strict reading of the law, which names only campus police appointed by trustees of the University of Massachusetts and trustees of Southeastern Massachusetts University as authorized to issue citations.
State college police chiefs are appointed by their respective school trustees.
Tillinghast said the new policy severely undercuts his force’s ability to police a college campus where underage drinking is prevalent and drunken driving a persistent danger.
Bridgewater State College is the largest state college on the South Shore and houses more than 2,300 students in on-campus residence halls.
The 370-acre campus has miles of public roadway and about 4,000 parking spaces that typically turn over several times a day.
According to college crime statistics, last year there were 153 arrests on campus for liquor law violations and 71 for drug law violations.
Last year there were 10 arrests on campus for drunken driving.
Often, those arrests stem from routine traffic stops, Tillinghast said.
The citations also serve an important legal function, campus police chiefs say. The tickets serve as the legal documentation of the stop, and establish probable cause for the stop.
Some chiefs say their drunken driving arrests won’t be taken seriously in court without a citation serving as the foundation for the arrest.
“The court won’t process an OUI arrest without a citation,” said Framingham State College Police Chief Brad Medeiros, who has run out of tickets. “It’s an imperative part of the process. This handcuffs us.”
Bridgewater State College police Lt. Glen Anderson added: “We can still make arrests, but our cases will be vulnerable; defense attorneys will pick it apart in two minutes.”
Motor vehicle citations can also trigger administrative action from the Registry of Motor Vehicles, such as automatic license suspensions.
The issue has caught the attention of some lawmakers including Sen. Mark Pacheco, D-Taunton. He plans to push a bill in the next legislative session that would give ticket-writing power back to state college campus police.
“It seems like nothing more than a turf battle, and that does not serve the public,” added Sen. Brian A. Joyce, D-Milton.
Salem State College police Capt. William Anglin said with his supply of citations dwindling, he too has instructed his officers to be judicious in their ticket writing.
“We’re being picky,” Anglin said. “We’re trying to hang on to them for as long as possible. But eventually we will run out of books. Maybe we’ll just have to make up our own. But will that fly in a court of law?”
Dan DeLeo may be reached by clicking here
© The Patriot Ledger ~ All rights reserved - ~ PATRIOT LEDGER HOME