Letter to the Editor 5/1/14

I have some comments about what transpired with the teens that were stopped at the campus library (“Police respond to call from security.” 5.1.14). I am surprised at the commentary from the security report and Don Marsala because it directly contradicts what Sgt. Bill Hockman and the responding Town officer told me.

For starters my brother was one of the teens stopped and I just happened to be on campus to witness the police come and question the teens.

I was told directly by Sgt. Bill Hockman that the teens were not in trouble and he was investigating a noise complaint.  He also stated that it is Vassar policy to bring in the police to assist in identifying people on campus when they do not have ID. Nearly all  of the kids in this group were not old enough for New York State IDs. When I pointed that out to Sgt Hockman, he told me that the police would have to work it out.

Several students questioned the Sgt. as to why he would call the cops for a noise complaint and not just ask the teens to leave. He claimed it was Vassar policy to call the police. I noticed several students of color took offense to this and mentioned they had the police called on them while they were walking on campus.

When I talked to my brother and his friends separately at the scene, they told me that no one told them to quiet down and when they tried to leave on their bikes, Sgt Hockman grabbed one teen’s bike and refused to let them leave.

The police arrived and confirmed that the kids were NOT in trouble but he had to gather names and call parents. My mother opted to show up and speak for my brother. The officer assured her that my brother was not in trouble, took down his information and left. The impression I got from the friendly nature of the responding officer and Sgt Hockman was that this was NOT a big deal and just “protocol”.

This whole situation took well over an hour to complete and at no time were the teens told to leave the campus. Sgt. Hockman didn’t even stay at the scene and after the officer completed his work, the teens were still riding their bikes on campus. No one approached them and told them to leave, no one complained. No one said anything to them. So imagine my surprise to see Don Marsala state that the kids were asked to leave.

Another issue I would like to point out: Because Vassar security called the police, now the police are actively blaming the teens for
incidences of theft that were reported at the library. For example, my brother was visited at his school by a town police officer who implied that he and his friends stole cellphones and computer equipment from the campus library. None of the students had book bags or any way to store the materials. Secondly the original complaint was about noise, not theft.  I also had the pleasure of working at Vassar for six years and know that theft is/was a huge problem in the library and students, faculty and staff were constantly being reminded to not leave their stuff unattended.

While Vassar security does not control what the town police does, I do hold them partially responsible for the negative turn this situation has taken. In my professional opinion there is no reason to have the town police come and question teens and preteens about noise. Clearly Vassar security is more than capable to handle a noise complaint.  I sent Don an email shortly after the campus incident happened and as of today (5.5.14)  I have not heard a reply back.

Thanks you for your feature on this. I am grateful for the students who stood by and verbalized their displeasure over the situation. However, I am disappointed that VC Security mislead the student body about what really happened.

Shailee Johnson

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