By Holly Wells
Lisa Rich/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Jon Burckle, president of the Kappa Sigma fraternity, enters the code to unlock the back door that police said was open when they came into the house Aug. 26. The door closes automatically and cannot remain ajar unless it is propped open with an object, said Burckle.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 13, 2005
Members of a campus fraternity are fighting underage drinking charges because they say undercover police officers threatened and intimidated students last month after sneaking onto private property.
When an underage drinking task force comprising members of the Pima County Sheriff's Department and the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control entered Kappa Sigma's fraternity house around 10:50 p.m. Aug. 26, they did so without probable cause, the fraternity's president said.
The plainclothes officers, who had not told campus police that they were conducting the bust, approached three male and two female students, grabbed them by their arms and forced them outside, according to fraternity members.
Fraternity members, scared they were witnessing an abduction, said they followed the officers out and asked for an explanation.
Police said they had every right to conduct the investigation in the manner they did and had probable cause to get into the house that night. But Jon Burckle, Kappa Sigma fraternity president, said police had no right to be on the property and the police were unprofessional and actively tried to intimidate students. The students who were cited are now being urged to fight the charges, Burckle said.
The door the officers entered through was not propped open like the police reports state, Burckle said, adding that he has the surveillance tapes to prove it.
The beginning of the investigation
Police originally decided to enter the fraternity house, 1423 E. First St., after they saw alcohol being brought in from a nearby parking lot and noticed several people in the house appeared to be under 21, reports stated.
The gate to the house was propped open, no one was checking IDs and people were entering and leaving the house freely. The plain-clothed officers then followed three men who were entering the house. The men were known to be 21 years old, reports stated.
Burckle, however, tells a different story.
He said all the entrances to the house were locked that night, and only people who knew the code could enter.
Burckle said surveillance videos, which are used for security, clearly show the gate was not propped open and that police only gained access by following the three men inside.
The videos were not made available to the Arizona Daily Wildcat, per the advice of Burckle's lawyers.
"It's clear as day on the surveillance camera," Burckle said. "We know for a fact that the door was not propped open. Why are they lying? It's almost comical to see what it shows on the tape and what they say in the report."
Public Information officer Deputy Dawn Barkman said she could not comment at length about the incident because it is still ongoing. But, Barkman said, police can legally enter a place that is open to the public.
"Police wouldn't have made an arrest if they were not within the bounds of the law," she said.
Police cited Rhys Stover, John Parmenter, Ashley Lembo, Carl Effenson, Tara Katherine Jaicks and Jennifer Ginsberg for underage drinking.
Burckle said the house was not open to the public and said only people who knew the code, or who were friends of someone who knew the code, could enter.
Concerns about police conduct and professionalism
The conduct of the officers is a big concern to Burckle, who said he was shocked at the unprofessional conduct, rudeness and aggressiveness of the officers.
"There was a conscious effort to intimidate and scare," Burckle said. "This is a perfect example of police taking advantage of college students."
When police pulled the students out of the fraternity house, several fraternity members followed them because the men were in plain clothes and refused to explain what was happening to them, Burckle said.
"Two girls were simply grabbed," Burckle said. "With the reports of sexual assaults at fraternity houses last year, how am I supposed to respond with three to four guys in plain clothes grabbing girls by the arms and pulling them out?"
Burckle said the fraternity members had no idea what was going on and were told it didn't concern them.
Burckle said he repeatedly told police that he was in charge of the property and needed to see badge numbers and business cards, none of which he ever received.
"The conduct was unbelievable," he said. "I still wish I knew who those officers were."
The matter of probable cause is also questionable, Burckle said, because seeing people drinking at the house does not amount to probable cause, and just because someone is under 21 does not mean they can't be around people who are of age and drinking.
"We are a wet fraternity, it is not a crime to see alcohol," he said.
According to police reports, once police entered the fraternity they noticed several red cups, beer cans and students drinking on the balcony.
Because the fraternity does not allow glass bottles, everyone has to drink out of a plastic or Styrofoam cup, Burckle said.
The alcohol in the fraternity house that night was also brought in by people who were legally allowed to purchase it, Burckle said.
The report indicates that while in the house, police saw Effenson holding a red plastic cup that appeared to have beer in it, and Ginsberg was also seen holding a Keystone Light, reports stated.
Buckle said two of the students were immediately handcuffed when they were pulled out and said he felt personally threatened because the officers were so aggressive.
"People were definitely, definitely scared," Burckle said. " It was almost inhumane, there was no concern for who we were as individuals. They made us feel like they could do anything to us."
Jaicks was handcuffed and told she would be taken to jail after she told police that she did not have her identification on her, and said she knew she did not have to take a Breathalyzer test, reports stated.
Jaicks then had a friend go to her house to get her license and agreed to take a Breathalyzer test, reports stated.
Effenson was booked into Pima County Jail for being belligerent and argumentative and refusing to take a Breathalyzer test or sign a citation. He also had no identification on him, reports stated.
After police repeatedly asked the fraternity members to back up during this process, one member refused to move. Police then placed the member in handcuffs and put him in the back of a police car, reports stated. He was not released until police were called away.
Fraternity members then got on the phone with lawyers and fraternity advisers, and were told to take pictures of the incident. When members began to take pictures they were told they'd be arrested for obstructing a crime scene, Burckle said.
At one point an officer arrived with a canine. The officer loosened the dog's chain and the dog lunged at the fraternity members, Burckle said, which he said scared him immensely.
The possibility of drugs being on the premise was never a question, Burckle said, which is why he is unsure why the officers felt brining in a dog was necessary.