UIW Student President Calls For Campus Police Policy Reformation

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University of the Incarnate Word. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Administrative building at the University of the Incarnate Word. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Ever since the off-campus, fatal  shooting of University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) honors student Cameron Redus in December 2013, the UIW student body has been searching for answers – answers about what went wrong. Why did an unarmed student steps away from his off-campus apartment deserve to be shot five times at close range by a campus police officer?

This incident has shaken the student body to its core. Many are anxious to see fundamental changes that will safeguard the lives of current students and prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again. With these concerns in mind as the UIW Student Body President, I created the Student Safety Committee to explore areas of improvement and to address various safety issues on campus. Over the past few months, I have met with university administrators, faculty members, and student representatives to solicit input from all sides. These meetings, in conjunction with the Safety Committee’s meetings, led a list of recommendations for the reformation of UIWPD’s policies.

  • UIW Campus police officers should be trained in the same standard operating procedures utilized by SAPD, and be informed about the proper escalation of force.

  • All campus police officers should be equipped at all times with non-lethal tools, including tasers and pepper spray, in addition to their firearms.

  • A UIWPD representative must be present at all SGA General Assemblies to answer questions students might, and a student representative must have a permanent seat on the hiring committee for UIWPD officers.

  • All UIWPD vehicles must be clearly marked as police vehicles with visible decals on all sides. They should feature working light bars situated atop vehicles, as well as PA/announcement systems, which should be utilized to communicate with students during routine traffic pullovers.

View the UIW Student Government Association’s Recommendations for the UIW Campus Police here in its entirety here.

After hearing these recommendations, Faculty Senate President Ramona Parker and several other university representatives encouraged me to meet face-to-face with UIW Chief of Police Jacob Colunga. They recommended that I share the Student Government Association’s recommendations with him and request his input. We all agreed that it was important to hear all sides and develop a set of recommendations acceptable to administrators, students, and UIWPD.

UIW Chief of Police Jacob Colunga

UIW Chief of Police Jacob Colunga

After several attempts to schedule a meeting with UIWPD, I finally met with Chief Colunga on April 16. When I arrived at their headquarters, located on the bottom floor of Clement Hall Dormitory, I was greeted by Chief Colunga and Michael Agnese, director of public safety and the brother of UIW President Dr. Louis J. Agnese. Although I wasn’t aware that Agnese would be in attendance, I wasn’t surprised by his presence either, since he had attended previous meetings.

Our meeting began routinely, as I addressed on-campus parking issues and proposed ticketing reform policies from the previous semester. Both parties had no problem discussing these issues at length. Although we weren’t in agreement on every topic, we were certainly able to voice our own concerns and negotiate certain aspects of ticketing policies and parking reform.

When it came time to discuss the Student Safety Committee’s proposed reform measures, I presented our three-page document to Chief Colunga and Agnese. Although I did not expect them to completely agree with all the committee’s recommendations, I was not prepared for what happened next.

Agnese spent a few moments while flipping through the recommendations and letting out some chuckles at our suggestion that officers undergo mandatory annual physical fitness testing. He then closed the document, pushed it back towards me, and said that “we” were not going to discuss the recommendations further and that I should drop the subject altogether.

Puzzled, I questioned why he would make such a statement. He said that the recommendations were administrative issues, not UIWPD issues, and as such he wasn’t at liberty to discuss anything on the reform list. He suggested I meet with members of the administration or with the university’s legal counsel if I wanted to pursue these reform measures. I informed him that it was members of the administration that first suggested this meeting with the police department. Despite this, Agnese refused to discuss our recommendations.

I stated that I was simply trying to address the student body’s safety concerns and pointed out that none of our recommendations directly mentioned Cameron Redus or the actual shooting.

Agnese stopped me at this point and became quite animated. He stated that “everything” had to do with the shooting and that I couldn’t separate our recommendations from the incident because they were inexorably intertwined. Agnese made it clear that he would not discuss our recommendations. After “deliberating” a bit longer with Agnese, I realized he wasn’t going to budge and the meeting wasn’t going anywhere. I thanked them for their time and took my leave. Throughout most of this entire heated discussion, UIW Police Chief Colunga sat silently.

I left feeling very discouraged that, despite our months of hard work developing these recommendations and meeting with various UIW administrators and students, Agnese and the UIW Police Department would not discuss the matter.

As Student Body President, my duty is to stand up for students of this university to ensure their concerns are heard. It became painfully obvious that Agnese wasn’t interested in the students’ opinions and therefore was not willing to act upon them.

Despite this setback, we continued to develop our recommendations by gathering various opinions from administrators and students. Last week, I presented the final draft of the Student Safety Committee’s recommendations to the student General Assembly and Senate. After months of deliberating on proper wording and procedural changes, all three branches of UIW’s student body agreed on four recommendations for immediate implementation.

We will now forward the list of recommendations, fully backed by the students, to the administration. I can only hope the administration will honestly consider our recommendations and work with students to reform the UIW Police Department. I am optimistic: If we work together, we can bring about positive change on our campus and make UIW a safer place for all.

If you are interested in voicing your opinion about this matter, I urge you to contact Michael Agnese directly at magnese@uiwtx.edu or Chief Colunga at colunga@uiwtx.edu and encourage them to address the concerns of the student body by considering our recommendations.

*Featured/top image: The University of the Incarnate Word. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

RELATED STORIES:

UIW Student President’s Open Letter Regarding the Shooting of Cameron Redus

UIW Chancellor Responds to Community’s Call for Action

UIW Student President’s Open Letter Regarding the Shooting of Cameron Redus

An Open Letter to UIW from the Redus Family

Autopsy Report Raises Troubling Questions in Fatal Shooting of UIW Student

UIW and its Students Struggle with an Unresolved Tragedy

Two Senseless Shootings Shake San Antonio in This Season of Good Will

16 thoughts on “UIW Student President Calls For Campus Police Policy Reformation

  1. I chuckled as I read all the academic qualifications of a young adult attempting to establish himself as an authority on modern policing. Campus police are simply POLICE. Although duties are tailored to meet the campus needs, the priority is the protection of life and property. The police enforce laws. Laws are to be followed and if they are not you are subject to consequences. The compassionate hand for an intoxicated, most likely under aged adult, is arrest and incarceration. You want physical standards for the police officers, understandable. However, how about you adults obey the law and don’t fight uniformed officers? In addition, quit referring to yourself as “students”. Even though you are it leads the impression you are children and expect that kind of treatment. You are not entitled! 17 is the magic age when you are an adult. You know better! You pay adult prices for your actions and that is the real world. Equip your officers with “less lethal” tools. There is no such thing as “non lethal”. Redo this assignment mr president, because you failed in your assessment. -a 23 yr law enforcement veteran with a son away at a university.

  2. With the equipment comes the training. I have dealt with plenty of the students and they are shocked when they are shown no quarter. The police chief needs to have the freedom to provide for the officers without influence of the college. That is separate from the performance of duties as it relates to the school.

  3. This notion of pointing out entitlement among the student body vs addressing real issues within the department is exactly why problems continue to manifest themselves. Physical fitness standards for officers? Completely reasonable. Period. Tying common sense reform to students (and that’s exactly what they are, by the way, this is a university we’re talking about) behaving themselves is utter nonsense. Professionalism isn’t situational.

  4. Mr.Leo Torrez, at no point did Jonathan Guajardo deem himself an expert in “modern policing”. I’m not sure if you’re referring to the Cameron Redus case in your compassionate hand rant or are simply generalizing university STUDENTS. However, I’m sure as a veteran officer, you find shooting an unarmed civilian five times at close range a bit unorthodox and cause for concern. You’re correct, adult actions certainly do merit adult consequences. Nobody is arguing that point. The UIW students, whether they be incoming freshman or doctoral candidates, are not seeking an easy out for a mere traffic ticket sir. A very serious and grave matter occurred forcing particular issues to be addressed by the Student Body President and administrators alike at UIW. Clearly the ball was dropped somewhere and cannot be afforded another opportunity to fall when death is a possible outcome. If that is something for you to chuckle at then shame on you as an officer and father of a university student.

  5. Everyone at college is there to solely better their lives. No one is saying they should get free reign or breaks. If “POLICE” are trained in escalation of force why should it not be the same for campus police? It is not ridiculous to be asking the same. I feel had it been a regular police officer, SAPD would not have shot & killed an unarmed person.
    They should be doing some serious kind of reform after such a disaster, to not do so would be a mistake.

  6. I chuckle at the notion of those who sadly attempt to comprehend a job that today, almost no one wants and certainly not all can do. Perhaps that is part of the problem of police work. But let is not paint the student as a victim. He was an adult who commited a crime .Period! Did he deserve to die…questionable. When an officer becomes defenseless and fear of serious bodily injury or death then you run that risk of deadly force being used. A certain percentage of the population are physically immune to things such as batons, pepper spray and tasers. If you are under the influence that percentage rises. Do certain things need to be changed, certainly. Are some of the suggestions good, yes they are. Are the complete and well thought out? No. Modern policing evolves on a daily basis whether it is new technology, new legislation or new interpretation handed down by the courts. The perception of the student body is that the police are their to serve and cater to them. Not true. It is a double edge sword. The attitude of the student body has everything to do with the police department. Why do you think sapd is very public relations oriented? A poor or negative image does in fact have an impact in dealing with the public. “Shaming” Lyndsey Reyna, does not change the fact that the students are ADULTS, but I guess the liberal academia is too busy nurturing their attitudes instead of their intellect. Joel Reyna, fyi, im in war zone every day. I have pulled the trigger in the line of duty and I think about it everyday. I don’t know you and don’t know if you have been to war. But the difference is you pull the trigger in a foreign land against a foreign enemy and its called war. When you pull the trigger here, its on our soil, on our public, and you will be judged from the second the bullet leaves the barrel. Thats not talking big. .that’s EXPERIENCE!

    • I assume that you are a law enforcement officer or military, so first I want to thank you for your service because as you stated it is a job that not everyone wants to do or even can do. The fact that the job isn’t for everyone is one of the main reasons for the suggestion that require physical fitness, similar standards to SAPD, alternative uses of force, and a way for students to air grievances.

      These suggestions are by no mean and end all to the changes and research that the university has made. It is a way for student to make their concerns and wishes to the university known. Currently, UIWPD has a negative relation with the public and the UIW community. Maintaining and open dialog, admitting that changes need to be made, and make changes are important ways for the university and UIWPD to repair the relationship. Currently, students don’t interact very much with the UIWPD unless they are getting parking tickets or requesting access to a closed building. Incidents like the one with Cameron erode the confidence that the UIW community has in the UIWPD for protection and the responsible use of force.

      The 4 bullet point in the article are described in more detail in the document. This list was narrowed down from a much larger and more detailed list. It was not meant to be comprehensive of how police work should be done. The suggestions are simple and fair.

      It seems that you perception of student is one of young adults walking around waiting for UIWPD to serve them in some way, and not do their job of enforcing laws and university rules. Most student are like the general public which is law abiding. There are some who are entitled, but the are many of the general public who are the same way. It is not something that is limited to college students or millennial. Students at UIW pay plenty for breaking the parking rules on campus, and are not exempt from consequences.

      Also, no one has said the Cameron Redus was innocent of guilt. Anyone who broke that law deserves punishment. These suggestion don’t advocate for that in any way. We are advocating for changes to ensure that another incident doesn’t occur unless lives are legitimately at risk. You yourself said that Cameron’s death was questionable. While I try not to play in hypotheticals, one wonders whether less-lethal weapons, better training, and higher standards for UIWPD would have resulted in Cameron’s arrest and trial and not his death.

    • But how does an officer who has a good 130 pounds on someone and also is about 4 inches taller fear for his life. That is like me fearing for my life from a 7th grader, but I guess people are just scared now.

  7. Yes, I deleted my comment in recognition of that. Both can be considered war zones though I’m not sure why you would characterize police work in civil society as a war zone unless you’re part of a paramilitary organization like SWAT or a member of a task force.

    I think it comes down to communication. When I worked the oil fields driving trucks for different companies I worked with DPS and local law enforcement numerous times. I noticed a lot during my travels between cities and I would communicate information to deputies and troopers often. My relationship with them improved their ability to address issues with safety, crime and other things.

    I believe the problem law enforcement has is failure to communicate with those they swore an oath to protect. There are also other issues like a lack of respect, I know, but that doesn’t mean that a mutual understanding cannot be reached.

    Your chuckle is a lack of respect and a failure to see these students as people, as equals. Do you believe that you are above them? Does your authority exclude you from cooperation?

    http://www.lpbexar.org/content/my-life-tyrant

  8. Leo Torrez First, the fact that you said “did he deserve to die…questionable?” is disgusting, and that is an understatement. Yes, he was an adult. Yes, he did commit a crime. But was his death warranted? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Your ignorance in regards to this case is evident. Actual criminals in this city have been granted much less of a punishment for far worse crimes! We all understand that force has to be used sometimes. But give me a break, you are not going to justify five times at close range. Second,” sadly attempt to comprehend the job”? It’s not difficult to understand the role of a police officer. Last time I checked Police Officers do take on a role to SERVE their community. SAPD vehicles are tagged with “Serving the Alamo City”. You may not know this, but the University of the Incarnate Word Police Officers are not SAPD. They are Texas Peace Officers and specifically serve the UIW community. And just to further that, here is a direct quote from their mission:” The UIW Police Department shall respond to the changing needs and expectations of the campus community with an emphasis on sensitivity and understanding while providing service to the university.This commitment will be achieved through community confidence and involvement, organizational effectiveness and accountability, and individual dedication and commitment.The UIW Police Department’s pledge is to recruit and train quality personnel who will become dedicated public servants, sensitive to the needs of the University community.” But, who knows why the UIW community would think that their own police department operates for them? The PROPOSED reformation policy was brought for open discussion and dialogue. Nobody was making demands. Maybe you missed the first comment. I clearly stated that we are adults and adult actions do deserve adult consequences. Maybe my “liberal academia” failed to teach me that being gunned down at close range by a police officer may be included in those consequences. Here’s a news flash, you’re not the only cop in San Antonio. Don’t jump to conclusions in thinking people don’t understand the role of an officer and the dangers. My own family serves not only as officers, but also firefighters and in the armed forces. Other people understand this line of duty.Yes, they’ve expressed frustrations and certainly come home tired. But I guarantee never once has my father, cousins, or uncles once said that they are not public servants or that they believe somebody may have deserved to die. And that sir is the difference in men who understand the occupation they have chosen and proudly serve their community and those who chuckle at those they have sworn to serve.

  9. And, Leo, if you’re a cop who thinks any adult who commits a crime – even a traffic offense – DESERVES TO DIE – then you’ve proved every point you think you’re against.

    You point out that your son is at college. Is it UIW? Would you be thrilled if he were shot five times under shady circumstances, as long as the killer had a badge?

  10. Students who are paying for their education at the university and the employees’ salaries ARE ENTITLED to input on the matter. After all, EDUCATION is the purpose of a university, not policing the university’s campus. If the students are in fear of campus officers shooting and killing them/their peers, they sure as hell are entitled to input.
    To think they wouldn’t be entitled to opinions on the matter just goes along with the idea that police are the be all and end all of others’ lives/ we live in a police state. This is a very UNEDUCATED outlook on things.
    Non-lethal force should have been taken with the deceased student (may he RIP). In fact, he shouldn’t have even been pulled over by a campus officer while OFF campus. Campus officer’s need to stick to policing the campus, not areas off campus.
    I respect those who have served our country in the US military, but university campuses ARE NOT combat zones.
    University campuses are places to learn, not die.

  11. References to “liberal academia” or “liberal media” are used by people who consider thinking as a liberal action.

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