Brown students concerned arrest records will remain closed if campus police are armed

RHODE ISLAND— While Brown University administrators considered arming their campussecurity force last month, some students raised concerns that those officialswould not be subjected to state open records law requirements that apply toother armed municipal police officers.School officials say that thecampus security force is not obligated to release information pertaining toarrest records, regardless of whether they carry arms, because the securitydepartment is part of the private university rather than a publicbody.Whether the force is armed or not, Mark Nickel of the Brown NewsService said the university cannot make police records open to the publicbecause of a federal law that prohibits the disclosure of universitydisciplinary actions against students. “If students names show up in policerecords as witnesses, suspects, victims or whatever, the university must treatthe information as confidential,” Nickel said.However, the FamilyEducational and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA, explicitly says that therecords of a campus law enforcement unit are not covered by the privacyprotections.The added authority the campus security force would have bycarrying guns has one student group weary about the lack of public scrutiny fortheir actions.Doreen Wang, spokesperson for the student group, ThirdWorld ACTION, said, “If the police become armed they will become the gatekeepersof the university, deciding who can come on campus and who can’t.” Withthe added protections, the security force also could respond to violentencounters, such as assault and murder, but not be subject to release of theirrecords of those investigations until a later date and in an abbreviatedversion. This lack of disclosure would affect crime reporting by thestudent newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald. Reporter Elena Lesley saidBrown students are always calling for more transparency at theinstitution.Currently, the campus security department puts out a reportthat summarizes crimes committed on campus in compliance with the Clery Act, afederal law that orders universities to release campus crime logs andstatistics.