SMU community weighs in on campus police with personal stories

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An SMU Police Officer stands near his police vehicle outside the George Bush Presidential Library on SMU's campus. Photo credit: Ryan Miller

On the first week of his freshmen year, Drew Young, a sophomore, decided to find a place to study. He showed up to what he thought was the library wearing pajamas and carrying his book bag.

Turns out he was actually in the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. Young said he was quickly escorted out by security. The library, located on the east side of campus, does not have a study hall for undergraduates.

“Safe to say I didn’t go back there to study,” Young said.

From guardian angels, to uniformed watchdogs serving up breathalyzers and tickets, campus police and security are ever present around SMU, keeping the campus safe and students on their toes.

“Our goal is to keep SMU as safe as possible,” SMU Police Department’s Chief of Police Richard Shafer said.

Chief Shafer said SMU PD does so by preventing crime, responding to any emergency, working with the community to support the “See Something-Say Something” program and offering police support for all campus events.

The Daily Campus interviewed students across campus about their encounters with campus police and security officials — for better and worse. Here’s what they had to say.

LATE NIGHT ENCOUNTERS

A senior said she left her room in Smith Hall her freshman year around 3 a.m. for shower and came back to a surprise.

She had left her key with her wallet attached in the door when she left for the bathroom. When she came back, they were gone.

SMU police had been called to Smith and had taken keys that were hanging from doors because of safety concerns. She said she called police, who returned her things.

However, the officer who handed them over said police had found and removed a fake ID from her wallet and told the senior that she would have to meet with the Dean of Student Affairs.

Chief Shafer said that this is common, as most students who are found in possession of a fictitious license are referred to the Student Conduct Office for violation of the Student Code of Conduct.

After meeting with officials, she had to make a poster about what could have happened if the Dallas police, instead of SMU police, had found the ID Under Texas state law, a minor in possession of a fake ID could be arrested, face fines up to $2,000, and even go to jail.

Senior Georgia Murphy, a communications major, encountered SMU police as a freshman when they awoke her in the middle of the night after finding her Boaz door ajar.

Murphy said she had been out with friends and when she got home, she climbed up to the top of her lofted bed and fell asleep with her shoes on. One of her roommates propped the door open.

Roughly two hours later, Murphy said the police entered her room and shined a flashlight on her. They shook her until she woke up and forced her to take a Breathalyzer test, she said. The police wanted to take her to the hospital, but her friends insisted that she stay at the dorm.

Murphy said she failed the Breathalyzer test and received an alcohol violation.

Murphy said she and her father complained about the incident to SMU officials. The police report stated that she was found unconscious, but according to Murphy, that was false.

Alex Acs, a junior at SMU, said she was approached by campus police as she was walking back to the Cockrell residential commons after a night out.

“I was heavily intoxicated when cops came over to me and started asking me about my night and how much I had to drink,” she said.

Acs said that the police ordered her to walk in a straight line and gave her a Breathalyzer test, even though she was just a few steps from home.

She said she heard police talking on their radio saying things like, “yeah female here, super intoxicated, slurring her words, not cooperating.”

“The way the cops were talking must have upset me because the next thing I know is that I was in the cop car,” she said.

Acs said she took a quick nap while her phone charged and then the cops asked her to call a female in Cockrell to let her in, but not before giving her a citation.

Acs had to go to the conduct office and take alcohol classes at the health center.

“They basically got me in trouble with the law which was so unnecessary because I was five feet from my dorm,” Acs said. “They could have given me an alcohol violation or something that didn’t carry legal consequences.”

Chief Shafer said that SMU Police are very proactive when it comes to any violations of alcohol laws, no matter where they occur.

“Our primary goal is to ensure the safety of the person, as many people drink to the point that they need to go to the hospital; others are turned over to a sober person to watch over them, and some are taken to jail for their safety until they are OK to go home,” Shafer said. “Once we see a person that may be intoxicated, we must take some type action to ensure their safety.”

UNUSUAL SUSPECTS

Aubry Hinners, a freshman physics major, said she was walking home from the Boulevard one night recently when a man approached her from behind and started throwing water balloons at her.

Wet and unable to identify the man, Hinners ran inside her dorm while the man ran toward the soccer field. She contacted the police, who asked her if she was all right. She said she received no other help or a follow-up from police.

“It was honestly terrifying,” said Hinners. “He was very close to me and could have done something a lot worse.”

Shafer said he hopes students appreciate the good work the police do for them on campus.

“We prefer to work with students in this vain, but at the same time we do enforce laws and university policy that may not always be what students want,” he said.

Senior Patrick Norwood said he is thankful for SMU police presence during the summers when many non-students are on campus.

He said that last summer, one officer told him that many young children come to SMU for summer camps, but sketchy characters appear as well. Norwood said the officer also told him that a few older men have been removed from the premises, including from Fondren Library.

Though that’s not a problem during the school year with security checking student IDs after hours, Norwood said the discovery was “a bit upsetting.”

Alexa Boggio is the Kathy Crow Residential Commons resident whose room was targeted by an intruder on Feb. 3. Boggio said she was pleased with SMU police’s quick response, but is still concerned because the intruder has not yet been caught.

The police sent two officers to investigate the incident when it occurred, Boggio said, but targeted a resident on the hall that did not match the race of the man she had seen. Boggio thought the police should have asked more questions and done more investigating.

“They said, ‘Don’t worry ma’am, we got it. It was just a drunk student trying to get into his room,’” she said.

Boggio said the police had received at least two other reports of the same intruder near Crum commons. An email alert sent to students said the man who knocked on her door could have been attempting to make a food delivery. Boggio believes the email did not adequately stress the seriousness of the incident.

TO THE RESCUE

Olivia Pakula, a freshman student-athlete living in Armstrong Commons, said she has never been worried about walking around campus late at night and has never had to deal with the SMU police.

“I feel safe because the SMU campus is so small,” said Pakula.

On a recent, cold February day, freshman Madison McCredie got a flat tire on campus. She pulled off to the side of the road to wait for a tow truck when an SMU police officer came by to check on her.

“I had to leave my car there and he said, ‘Oh, don’t worry. I’ll tell the entire parking staff not to ticket your car,’” said McCredie.

McCredie said the officer stayed with her to make sure the tow truck came and even stayed with the vehicle while she went to class.

“We enjoy our contact with students on most all occasions,” Shafer said. “We brief at AARO, attend Mustang Corral, attend most all university events with students and really enjoy the graduations in December and May. It’s always a please to see how students have matured through the years at SMU and meet their goal of obtaining their degree.”

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