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SBPD has gone too far

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, September 28, 2008

The multi-agency “raid” on an off-campus house Sept. 21, in which 37 Notre Dame students were arrested for underage drinking, must be one of the most colossal wastes of resources in St. Joseph’s County history. According to reports, members of SUDS, St. Joseph’s County Police, Indiana Excise Police and the Indiana State Police joined forces – not to break up a crack ring, but to arrest University of Notre Dame students who were drinking (gasp!) beer out of a keg. Yes, underage drinking is illegal, and yes, authorities are there to enforce the law. Nevertheless, instead of writing a few citations and breaking up the party, a patrolling officer felt it necessary to call in pretty much everyone but Patton’s First Infantry Division.What makes this particularly disturbing is that police resources are said to be in short supply. I recently read an article from the South Bend Tribune from Sept. 24 entitled “Police: Violent Crime Up in South Bend,” detailing the rise of violent crime in South Bend, with the Chief of the South Bend Police Department describing some of the murders as “scary.” It goes on to explain that the Mayor and the Chief of Police believe that budget cuts will make it difficult to reduce crime in the city. I find it fascinating that while violent crime escalates, there are still plenty of resources available to persecute the dangerous lot of Notre Dame students.I attended the University of Notre Dame, graduating in 2001, and often felt the police went out of their way to bust students for relatively harmless offenses. Though I do not spend as much time in South Bend now, I have frequently been carded or otherwise harassed while tailgating before football games (I am 29 years old). Students are now banned from tailgating and apparently are not even allowed to have parties in their own off-campus houses when the primary residents are of legal age. Since when was Carrie Nation appointed Chief of Police in South Bend? As a refresher for those who don’t know, which doubtlessly includes every single member of the South Bend Police Department, Carrie Nation was a member of the temperance movement in the early 20th century who would make her point by entering bars and smashing the kegs and bottles of alcohol with a hatchet. The idea that Notre Dame is the only place in the country where college students drink before legal age is laughable. While drinking and driving and other more serious crimes should never be tolerated, having a quiet off campus party that results in a SWAT team raid is not only absurd, it’s negligent. To think there were other more serious crimes going on Saturday night at the exact moment the police were myopically focused on a few inebriated students with SAT scores in the 99th percentile should make everyone question the priorities of local law enforcement. Aren’t the police paid to serve and protect the public?This story makes it sound like South Bend police are far more concerned with telling Notre Dame students “just who’s boss.” The residence in question received no noise complaints and the police claimed that an officer driving by “noticed underage drinking” going on. To describe this official line of the SBPD as preposterous is being generous; it is obvious the students were targeted by the police department. This is from the article I referenced above: “According to statistics released by the South Bend Police Department, there have been 10 murders in South Bend, 54 rapes and 235 aggravated assaults so far this year. Those numbers compared with the same time frame since 2005, and this year the numbers are higher in every category.” I hope the residents of South Bend will have enough sense to demand that their valuable police resources be spent on combating violent crime instead of repressing common college student behavior.

Ellis Carsonalumclass of 2001Sept. 26