Police questioned by students
Panel allows students to voice concerns
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 00:10
Students questioned police on Carriage guest policy, Spring Weekend and marijuana laws at the law enforcement panel held on Tuesday, Oct. 9 in the Student Union Theater.
UConn Chief of Police Barbara O’Connor and Mansfield State Trooper Sgt. Richard Cournoyer led the panel, which was moderated by USG Chief of Staff Syed Naqvi.
The panel was handled in a town hall format, with the floor being opened to the audience for questions after introductions. Audience members were encouraged to come up to the microphone, introduce themselves by their first names and then pose their questions to the panel. Many of the questions came from Carriage residents with concerns about the stricter guest policy.
“Did you come up with the four-guest rule, or was that Carriage Apartments?” asked Sean, a Carriage resident.
Cournoyer confirmed that the four-guest policy was the idea of Carriage apartment management, although the police were consulted about its implementation.
“Campus apartments do hire us and work closely with us,” Cournoyer said. “However, we would rather be seen and not heard.”
“I don’t want people coming in mass amounts either,” said Kelsey, another Carriage resident. “But I was offended when I came home without my ID and was questioned.”
Cournoyer said that officers at Carriage have a list of residents and guests so that they know who to let inside, though there are still plenty of people who try to lie to get inside. “People will tell us they live in building 45,” said Cournoyer. “We know there’s no building 45.”
Cornoyer said that he wanted to make sure the police and residents maintained a good relationship with each other.“I don’t want you to be afraid of us,” Cournoyer said. “Come up. Talk to us. We get bored talking to each other all night.”
Many of the audience members were looking further down the line and wanted to know about the policies surrounding the next Spring Weekend “We understand the unsafe conditions,” said Andrew, one of the UConn students who went up to the microphone “We just want to have a good time.”
O’Connor said she understood the concerns but that public safety was the police’s primary concern. “From our standpoint, we have a responsibility for the safety of Mansfield residents and you guys,” O’Connor told the audience. “It’s a balancing act.”
USG President Stephen Petkis also had comments to offer on the topic of Spring Weekend; “This is something we’ve been working on,” Petkis said. “We’ve been working with the police on that. I think the culture is changing, and so the policies may change as well.”
In addition to Carriage and Spring Weekend policies, students wanted to know if there would be any changes made to how marijuana possession was handled on campus.
“The state of Connecticut decriminalized marijuana,” said Frank, a UConn student, to the panel. Frank wanted to know if recent legislation changes would affect campus marijuana policies.
“Every October 1, we get a large book about laws that changed and we are still looking at it,” said Lt. Christopher Casa. “From what we understand, you will still not be able to possess marijuana on campus.”
The next person to speak was Cody, a UConn student diagnosed with cancer. “Will medical marijuana patients be a priority for UConn police?” he asked the panel.
O’Connor was sympathetic but repeated that, as of now, marijuana was not allowed on campus. “We have to follow the law,” O’Connor said.
USG Vice President Jigish Patel thanked the police panelists for taking the questions and said that conversations like these would help create a dialogue between students and officers. “Communication here is the first step,” Patel said.
“Thank you for your suggestions,” Cournoyer said to the audience. “At the end of the day, it’s always about your safety.”