Criticism for Campus Watch and Campus Cop over cannabis charge
June 04, 2008 14:15
By Campbell MacDiarmid
Last Wednesday, at an OUSA-backed protest, Campus Watch and the Campus Cop were criticised for overstepping their roles and harassing and intimidating students, after the Campus Cop arrested a student for cannabis possession on Monday.
The protestors were voicing their concerns over recent informal complaints that Campus Watch members have been acting in an overbearing and aggressive manner and were overstepping their role, which is described on the University website as being â€œessentially pastoralâ€ and to act as â€œwalking information booths.â€ The protestors objected to recent actions of Campus Watch and the Campus Cop, in particular the arrest of History student Logan Anderson (21) for cannabis possession on campus last Monday.
Around 120 protestors met beside the Union lawn on Wednesday afternoon after the regular National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML) 4.20 protest, before moving to the area outside the offices of Campus Watch and Proctor Simon Thompson on Union street, chanting slogans such as â€œI donâ€™t pay my fees to pay for quasi-police,â€ and â€œHey-ho Campus Watch, donâ€™t forget youâ€™re not the copsâ€.
Thompson left his office via a back exit, and no one appeared to be in the Campus Watch office. When it became clear that they would not be addressed there, the protestors turned their attention towards several police officers and Campus Watch staff who were standing a short distance away.
However, it appears that not all students are as concerned by the behaviour of Campus Watch. Both Critic and the Otago Daily Times website received comments expressing displeasure with the protest, and the protest itself saw a clear division between the protestors and onlookers. One bystander was overheard assuring two Campus Watch members, â€œDonâ€™t worry guys, youâ€™re doing a good job.â€
Critic counted seven police officers, including one who filmed the protest, located a discreet distance from the protestors. In addition, a paddy wagon and three unmarked police cars were parked nearby on Castle Street. However, the protest remained peaceful and after a time the remaining protestors retired to the Union lawn to continue the 4.20 session with no arrests having been made.
Both the organisers of the protest and the police were satisfied with the way the protest was run. Otago NORML leader Abe Gray says, â€œIt was excellent. Now we have to find a way to translate that into actual action to keep Campus Watch in check.â€
Inspector Alistair Dickie was also pleased with the peaceful nature of the protest, saying of the protestors, â€œTheyâ€™re entitled to peaceful protestâ€¦. They did, and there was no problem and weâ€™re happy with that.â€
However, this outcome is unlikely to resolve tension between the protestors and the police and Campus Watch, with both the protestors and the police expressing dissatisfaction with the current situation.
OUSA President Simon Wilson, who attended the protest, says that OUSA has concerns both with Campus Watch and with the Campus Cop and emphasises that these go beyond their actions in arresting Anderson on Monday.
â€œ[Campus Watch] have now taken on a role of â€¦ enforcement of the Universityâ€™s rules and in doing that theyâ€™re not â€¦ always approaching it in the best way. [Informal complaints] â€¦ have been coming in for quite some time but people donâ€™t want to complain after theyâ€™ve already been through the disciplinary process, but without hard complaints the University hasnâ€™t taken it any further.â€
â€œWeâ€™ll be approaching the University â€¦ asking for a review of Campus Watch and what itâ€™s there for, and also asking them to look at the complaints process around Campus Watch. We think that if youâ€™re going to have a body like they do which enforces rules, then you need to have an independent complaints process, much like the police have the Police Complaints Authority. If people have got concerns with Campus Watch weâ€™d like them to approach us.â€
Regarding the role of the Campus Cop, particularly in arresting a student, Wilson says that â€œto the best of my knowledge this was the first arrest of a student on campus since the early nineties and itâ€™s really concerning.â€
â€œWhen the position [of Campus Cop] was introduced [OUSA] were told that it would be a liaison position and not a policing position and â€¦ actually the example that was given [was] that the Campus Cop wouldnâ€™t be going out actively pursuing people for smoking marijuana.
â€œWeâ€™ll be approaching the police management with our concerns that theyâ€™re now taking more of an effective enforcement role.â€
Inspector Dickie defends the role of Campus Watch, and indicates that police tolerance of the bi-weekly 4.20 cannabis prohibition protests is coming to an end.
â€œWe think [Campus Watch] is excellent, we fully support it,â€ Dickie says. â€œItâ€™s led to a lot of arrests and itâ€™s all positive, really.â€
Regarding police policy towards the 4.20 protests on campus, Dickie says, â€œItâ€™s something that needs addressing, and weâ€™re looking at taking action there to address the problem.â€
Dickie declined to elaborate on what action would be taken but confirms that the police are of the view that the protests may not be allowed to continue. â€œAt the end of the day itâ€™s a criminal offence,â€ he says.
The University declined to comment to Critic on the roles of Campus Watch and the Campus Cop, but in a comment made to the ODT, University Student Services director David Richardson appears to support the harder police stance on NORMLâ€™s regular protests: "As we have consistently stated, the University does not tolerate illegal activity on campus and the police will be called to deal with this activity when it occurs."
Although Wilson says that OUSA supports cannabis smoking as a form of protest he advises any student smoking cannabis on campus that â€œgiven the current climate, they need to be very, very careful.â€
Arrested student Logan Anderson entered no plea to the charge of cannabis possession in the Dunedin District Court on Thursday morning, and has been â€œgetting a lot of loveâ€ from supporters, Gray says.