By Madi Alexander, Senior Staff Writer
The university’s police department is attempting to become compliant with federal campus safety laws, but their efforts may be too little, too late.
Police did not maintain the daily crime logs mandated under the Clery Act, a federal law requiring all colleges and universities receiving federal financial aid to publish security policies and crime statistics.
University police were unable to provide current crime logs April 2 and April 11, when they were requested by reporters from the university’s student newscast.
Officials told News on the Twos reporters on April 11 that they could find the crime logs on the police department’s website. When reporters visited the website the same day, the crime log’s last entry was dated Jan. 31, 2013. Click here to view a screenshot of the online crime log from April 11.
Officials corrected the online log April 16 after News on the Twos reporters noticed the discrepancy, but past negligence could be grounds for an audit or fine from the federal Department of Education.
The police department is required to make the crime logs for the most recent 60-day period open for public inspection during normal business hours in the department office, according to the Clery Act.
An online crime log, even if it is up-to-date, does not satisfy the requirement unless the public is able to view the crime log on a device at the police department, according to statute.
An institution that does not comply with the Clery Act could be fined up to $35,000 for each violation and lose its federal funding.
There’s no excuse for OCU not being in compliance with the Clery Act, said Joey Senat, mass communications professor at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and former Freedom of Information of Oklahoma president.
“They know what crimes are being reported to them on a daily basis.” he said. “They should be keeping some kind of log. That’s a basic requirement.”
Updating the crime log to fix past errors does not excuse those violations, Senat said.
“They have to, at a minimum, have the most recent 60 days there at the police station where anyone from the public can walk up and look through them,” he said. “That can’t be any more blatantly obvious of a requirement in the law.”
Police are aware of Clery Act requirements, but the crime log was not updated online or in the office because of staff transitions, Capt. Jeff Stonebreaker said April 11.
OCU Police Chief Lyndel Harris and Steve Taylor, assistant chief of police, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.
Dr. Rick Hall, vice president for student affairs, and Mary Jenkins, university general counsel, refused to comment and directed questions to Sandra Pantlik, senior director of communications. The university police department falls under the purview of the vice president for student affairs.
The error in the availability of the crime logs was due to a technical problem, Pantlik said. She said the university did not violate the Clery Act.
“Due to a software glitch, when it became 2013, the software was set up to pull from 2012, not 2013,” she said. “All that information is still available through the police department.”
If an institution has an electronic log and technical problems make it unusable, a hard copy log must be used as a temporary replacement until the problems are resolved, according to the Education Department’s Clery Act compliance handbook.
Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate at the Student Press Law Center, said, if a glitch caused the problem and the logs were not available in the police department office, the university was noncompliant with the Clery Act for months.
“There is no exception to Clery Act provisions for an inability to run the software,” Goldstein said. “There’s no obligation to even use software to comply with the Clery Act.
“At some point you have to look at a pattern of willful neglect in maintaining the system as intentional.”
Read more about potential Clery Act compliance issues in University officials refuse prompt release of crime logs and University officials fail to release annual crime statistics.
For more information, watch OCU-TV’s News on the Twos:
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