The Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) held an event several days before West Chester University’s Homecoming weekend to inform students of their rights when they encounter police officers. Students for Sensible Drug Policy said their group is “an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.”
The mission statement of SSDP “mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive Drug War policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.”
SSDP showed a film, “10 Rules for Dealing with Police” to inform students of their constitutional rights. The film covers three police encounter scenarios: a simple traffic stop, approached on the street and when the police knock on your door.
According to ‘Flex your Rights’ the video recommends the following 10 rules.
Rule 1: Always stay calm and cool. Control your voice, tone, and body language.
Rule 2: Know your constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fifth Amendment gives you the right to stay silent as to not incriminate yourself of a crime. The Sixth Amendment allows you to ask for a lawyer.
Rule 3: You have the right to refuse searches. Assert yourself calmly; asserting yourself will help you if you end up in court. Your right to refuse a search does not make you guilty.
Rule 4: Don’t get tricked. Cops can legally lie to a person in question and try to incriminate them.
Rule 5: Ask if you’re free to go by asking, “Are you detaining me or am I free to go?”
Rule 6: Don’t expose yourself. Police usually need reasonable suspicion, a specific reason, to pull you over. The video states what to do when getting pulled over. Pull your car over immediately, turn your car off and keep your hands on the steering wheel. If you get pulled over at night, turn the interior light on so that the police can see you.
Rule 7: Never run from the police. Also, touching a cop is a serious offense. Stay calm, silent, and ask for a lawyer.
Rule 8: Report police misconduct. The video states to get their name and badge number. Look for their information without asking for it. Try to remember the exact words the officer said.
Rule 9: If there are bystanders ask for their recollection of the incident. If injured, photograph your injuries. Also, obtain a copy of all hospital letters.
Rule 10: You don’t have to let cops into your home. Police need a search warrant to enter your home. If you invite them in to your home however, they don’t need one. The video recommends confidently saying, “I can’t let you in without a warrant.”
SSDP did inform the viewers that for students who live on campus, Public Safety does not need permission to enter you room.
University owned and Affiliated housing can be searched by authorities if residents are suspected of violating the code of conduct. According to the “Student Code of Conduct” it states that a member of the residence life staff may enter a student’s room for visual inspections when there is reasonable suspicion of rule violation. The code follows that “If a resident refuses to grant entry, the passkey/master key may be used.”
If residents are not present during an emergency, or “if there is reasonable suspicion, a member of the residence life staff may enter a room for a visual inspection.” If the residents are absent from their room, they will receive a written notification that the staff member entered their residence.
The code continues that “a student’s room may be searched by a University official if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that a University rule has been violated.” The Vice President for student affairs can give permission for such a search. The document, one copy for the residents, will state the place being searched, name(s) of student(s), reason for search, objects or information sought, and person(s) performing the search. Any items seized may be used against the students in University disciplinary actions taken.
According to the “Student Code of Conduct,” students of West Chester University who reside off-campus, and when off-campus, are expected to be in “accordance with federal, state, and local laws and ordinances.” WCU students who break the law are also subject to judicial action.
For students who receive a judicial, alcohol related or non-alcohol, the office is located in 238 Sykes. Lynn M. Klingensmith is the director of Judicial Affairs and Student Assistance. The phone number to the office is 610-436-3511.
“Any off-campus violation is a violation of this section (No. 7 Alcohol and/ or alcohol containers) when such off-campus use violates local, state or federal laws.” This section of the Student Code of Conduct lists seven possible violations, but is not limited to just the seven listed violations.
SSDP will be holding their next event on Oct. 15, with the former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, as a guest speaker. The event will be in Sykes Ballroom C at 3:30 p.m.
For more information on your rights during a police encounter, SSDP recommends that students visit the Web site www.flexyourrights.org.
Ginger Rae Dunbar is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at RD655287@wcupa.edu.