In most states, private university police departments are not required to disclose police reports under the public records law — despite having the power to arrest and use force.
The Student Press Law Center has an ongoing campaign to open police records at private universities: Stop Secret Police. Last month, the SPLC spoke out against a bill that passed through the Indiana legislature that would have shielded private campus police department records from being made public. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence vetoed the legislation.
Now, a court case on this issue is heading to the Indiana Supreme Court — ESPN has sued the University of Notre Dame Security Police Department for incident reports concerning student athletes. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that private campus police records should be subject to the state’s public records law, but Notre Dame is appealing the ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The SPLC has made a video dramatizing what happens when university police are not held accountable by the public through public records. As the SPLC’s executive director Frank LoMonte wrote in his open letter to Indiana’s governor, “‘Secret police’ belong in Russia, China and North Korea. They have no place in South Bend.”