Burlington Times-News: Private campus police should be held to state standard on public records
From the Burlington Times-News (6/7/12): If an arrest is made by town of Elon police, details of that crime soon become public. North Carolina law requires that a substantial amount of information about the crime be released in a timely manner and upon request.
But, in the wake of a shortsighted ruling issued this week by the N.C. Court of Appeals, if someone is arrested on the campus of Elon University by campus police the entire incident can be withheld from public view.
This arresting development is the product of a poorly reasoned opinion by the court stemming from a case involving Elon University and a former student who was also a reporter for the campus TV station. The Court of Appeals in Ochsner vs. Elon University ruled that campus police departments are not public agencies and, thus, not subject to the state’s public records law. It’s a chilling decision that effectively creates a scenario for secret police actions on private college or university campuses across North Carolina.
The court’s ruling not only affirms, it expands a lower court ruling issued in July 2011 regarding whether the university provided adequate information when student reporter Nick Ochsner sought records from the Elon Campus Safety and Police Department regarding the arrest of a student. Campus police, after multiple requests, released a portion of the incident report that included the student’s name, date, location of the arrest, charges and bond amount. It was not, however, the complete report.