Law-enforcement agencies wield great power and therefore must be accountable to the public for its use. This applies regardless of who is paying an officer’s salary, especially when that employer is an institution such as a university.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is weighing in on a legal fight to establish that arrest records and incident reports of Otterbein University and other private universities and hospitals are public documents. DeWine filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Ohio Supreme Court in support of a suit filed by a former Otterbein student journalist Anna Schiffbauer. In it, he asserts that since these private police departments are a creation of state law — granting them governmental police powers, including the authority to arrest — they are public officers required to turn over records.
Westerville-based Otterbein denies that it is required to disclose records and has asked the court to dismiss the suit. Universities, though, should recognize that parents, students and the community have an important interest in police activities. Continue>>>