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New legislation could require private university police departments to disclose police records to the public

| Wednesday, January 13, 2016

State Rep. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) introduced a bill in the Indiana state legislature Jan. 5 to change state law to require private university police departments to disclose certain police records to the public. On Tuesday, House Bill 1022 passed out of committee by a 13-to-0 vote, Bauer said.

“Basically, [the bill] would make private schools with private police forces subject to the same public disclosures that a public police department would be required to do,” Bauer, a co-author of the bill, said.

Bauer said that if passed, the bill would require police departments at private universities to disclose records relating to arrests or incarcerations to the public. The bill would apply to Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP), the University’s private police force.

“I think a lot of people were concerned that when a private police force was involved, some of the reasons or causes or things that should have been reported — and would have been reported under a public investigation — were not reported,” he said. “This could make those fears or concerns go away.”

In January 2015, ESPN filed a lawsuit against the University after NDSP refused to grant an ESPN reporter access to campus police records related to student-athletes. The case, ruled in Notre Dame’s favor by the St. Joseph Superior Court, was appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals by ESPN. Oral arguments for the appeal are scheduled for Feb. 24, according to the South Bend Tribune.

Bauer, a Notre Dame alumnus, said the bill is not a consequence of the ESPN lawsuit. Rather, he said the bill stems from concerns raised by some of his fellow Notre Dame graduates.

“I think that we need to at least have some kind of assurance that when there is a need to disclose, records will be disclosed,” he said. “It’s the same as it would be under current public procedure.”

The bipartisan authors of the bill involved private Indiana colleges and universities in discussions while crafting the bill, Bauer said.

“I met with Notre Dame several times, and I’m on the board of the Independent Colleges [of Indiana],” he said. “I met with the president of the board. He shared some of the concerns and also wanted to get away from the idea that there was something to hide.”

Bauer said the bill does not aim to change disclosure policy at public police departments.

“This vehicle is to make the disclosure that’s now required by public police departments to be the same at a private department,” he said.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said in an email that Notre Dame believes some aspects of Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA) should apply to private university police departments. Brown said NDSP and other private police departments in the state have been in full compliance with APRA as it currently applies to them.

“Notre Dame offered its support, perspective and assistance to the leadership of the Independent Colleges of Indiana as it worked with Rep. Bauer to craft revisions to APRA to open police records while still maintaining compliance with federal regulations regarding student privacy,” Brown said.

Bauer said that while it is early on in the process, the bill has yielded promising results thus far.

“So far, getting a hearing and having co-authors from both caucuses is a good sign,” he said.

The bill will go the House floor for its second and third readings at the end of this week or early next week, Bauer said.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, The Observer's former Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's an ex-Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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