For MSUPD, complaints against officers go largely unheard
This is part one of a three-part series examining dysfunction in the MSU Police Oversight Committee.
Four. That is the number of times Deb Bittner said the MSU Police Oversight Committee, sometimes referred to as the Department of Police and Public Safety Oversight Committee, has met since 2012. Bittner has been on the committee since 2012 and has been the chair of the committee since August.
The committee is designed to review complaints filed against officers of the MSU Police Department and serves as an advisory board for disciplinary measures.
It was created directly by the MSU Board of Trustees and complaints are supposed to be reviewed by the committee.
The committee’s meeting at the start of the fall semester had only two attendees out of a committee of eight.
This has become a topic of concern for graduate student Robert Vankirk, who is a member of the oversight committee and a member of the Council of Graduate Students, or COGS.
Vankirk said he’s met students who didn’t know they could report issues they had with law enforcement.
“I want to make sure (students) are aware this committee exists and they don’t just have to take it,” Vankirk said.
Vankirk brought these concerns before COGS during the council’s Dec. 2 meeting.
The council passed a resolution and agreed to send a letter to June Youatt, MSU Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, as well as the Board of Trustees.
On Dec. 3 an informal meeting was called between Vankirk, Bittner, MSU police Capt. Doug Monette, who is the police department’s liaison to the committee and COGS vice president for external affairs Dee Jordan.
Vankirk voiced his concerns and those in attendance at the informal meeting decided the oversight committee should meet monthly.
The committee will meet in January for only the fifth time since 2012 and will have to approve the monthly meetings before they can start taking place.
Jordan said she expects the committee to start moving in the right direction.
“I think there will be a lot of changes and a lot of them will come when (members of the committee) meet in January,” Jordan said. “They will be discussing and determining those things, but I think there is a large scale of willingness to, as a committee, review things.”
Part two of this series will run Wednesday at statenews.com and will go into the type of complaints heard by the committee and how state law plays a role. Part three will cover the Secretary of Academic Governance and other issues facing the committee and will run in the print edition Thursday.