“If you can abuse your power you have too much,” says author and journalist Marty Rubin.
I believe the Department of Public Safety at Fairfield University needs to be a reminder of this quote’s message. Being privately owned, Fairfield has absolute power in all decisions that regard the University. Who better to enforce the law than your own private police force? It’s specifically the word ‘enforce’ that I want to stress.
What I am posing today is that DPS’ main objective is to enforce, rather than protect. Doesn’t it seem strange that they carry loaded handguns, tasers and handcuffs? Isn’t it odd that they have specially made badges, uniforms and Ford Explorers? It’s hard to imagine the necessity for such equipment, when, from 2016 to present day, there have been no criminal homicide cases or weapon possession crimes on Fairfield’s campus. Those who rebuke this critique would argue that the low rates of criminal offenses on the Fairfield campus are due to the implementation of this strict security force.
Take into account Fairfield’s crime statistics per 100,000 people, as compared to the rest of Connecticut in 2018: violent crime (54 – 207), murder/homicide (0 – 2.32), rape (2 – 24), robbery (19 – 61), assault (34 – 120), property crime (1529 -1681), burglary (155 – 222) and motor vehicle theft (107 – 186). Looking at these statistics, a trend emerges; Fairfield County’s crime rates are considerably lower than the rest of Connecticut. To add to this, the Fairfield Police Department is only seven minutes away from campus.
So again, I pose the question to you, the reader: why are the DPS officers so well equipped? I take the stance that they have this equipment as a sort of leverage; to strike fear into and make students more complicit with their requests. Even the tactics they employ reflect their perception of power. Their unwarranted aggression and incessant degradation, the purposeful retention of student rights before making bold claims that infringe on these rights. Even the smallest detail of banging on the large rattling metal doors, sending students into panic and distress, is unwarranted.
While it may be a part of their job description to protect, I believe their true purpose is to enforce the image that Fairfield desires. But this does not mean that you, a student, are completely powerless before them. By knowing your rights and what you are entitled to, you won’t have to become a victim. According to the student code of conduct, you must comply with University personnel for anything that is reasonable. Although this is a vague statement by the University and infringes on your Fifth Amendment right, if you find that public safety officers are asking to do something unreasonable, you are allowed to refuse. Unless officers or the University have probable cause that you are containing something within your residence that would violate the University’s code of conduct, they are not allowed to search your dorm or personal belongings. In the student handbook, probable cause or “reasonable suspicion” are loosely defined, but they should be based in facts, not hunches. Under the circumstance that the University does not have probable cause you are allowed to refuse a search, but you should never resort to physical resistance.
If you are found guilty of a certain action you are also able to submit an appeal to the vice president of student life under these circumstances: newly discovered evidence that absolves you of the crime, an error in the student conduct proceedings that affected the outcome of the hearing or a consequence that is disproportionate to the severity of the action. If you are meeting with a dean to review your case, here are some rights you are entitled to: you are allowed to view the documentation of your case, you are allowed to argue alleged violations, you have the right to call upon witnesses to aid your case, you can delay the meeting up to five business days, if you have a legitimate reason and you have the right to an advisor (ex. Parent, guardian, etc..). I hope these rights help all of you and that you can make good use of them in the future. In the wise words of a friend; don’t let yourself become a victim. Instead, become a victor.
Editor’s Note: The headline of this piece has been changed due to the previous headline’s misleading nature.