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Editorial: Cops out of line in beer bust


Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 13, 2005
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Police often paint a nightmarish picture to punctuate importance of campus safety: An 18-year-old woman is at a party and there's alcohol. She's new to Tucson and at a house she's never been in before. Suddenly an older man walks up, grabs her by the arm and hustles her out the door.

Yet the police who so sternly warn against this danger were recently the perpetrators of the nightmare. On Aug. 26 three plainclothes law enforcement officers not affiliated with campus police snuck into the Kappa Sigma house, 1423 E. First St., and began running students outside.

Concerned fraternity members and friends did what police have always instructed: They wisely dared to watch out for their frightened friends. The officers at the scene met the students' reaction with scorn, threatening and intimidating the fraternity's leadership, who had every right to know what was happening on their property.

Throughout the entire investigation the officers citing six students for underage drinking refused to properly identify themselves or to explain their actions. Furthermore, the underage drinking detail, comprising sheriff's deputies and state liquor board officers, exercised a campaign of intimidation and disrespect toward every student involved.

Police clearly have the right to seek out and stop criminal activity when there's probable cause. Whether law enforcement had probable cause to enter the house that night remains unclear, but police don't have the right to scare and intimidate students guilty of a misdemeanor.

The officers at the house that night erred in many ways. They failed to tell the University of Arizona Police Department that they would be conducting an underage drinking bust on campus. They failed to realize that what they believed to be an apartment complex was actually a privately owned fraternity house that could legally have alcohol. And, ultimately, they failed to serve and protect the public, frightening adults who deserved respect and full protection under the law.

The entire investigation reeks of police bent on abusing their position to take advantage of students. It's painfully obvious to any student that the arrogance exuded by the officers that night had more to do with the fact that they were citing students for underage drinking and not the crime itself.

Crimes should be punished and police have a duty to enforce all laws. However, police unfamiliar with the UA campus need to at least tell UAPD before sneaking into a party to whisk away women.

Police should be addressing underage drinking and exploring new ways to enforce the law. However, authorities need to re-examine the tactics used that night, as they directly contradict with public comments about safety.

It's high time police, often frustrated by underage drinking, realize that a campaign of systematic intimidation only foments rebellion. Students are now less willing to cooperate with police and develop a general disrespect for the law and the officers who enforce it.

Too many students hold that opinion of police already, seeing law enforcement as an active agent out to ruin college life.

While both students and police are culpable for the current environment, police could rectify the perception by taking steps to enforce the law in a fashion that does not frighten or intimidate students already anxious about campus safety.



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