Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2014

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UNLV students issue demands concerning campus cops

UNLV students protesting what they call campus police misconduct say they will present a list of demands to President Carol Harter when she attends the university Board of Regents meeting today at 1 p.m. at the Moyer Student Union.

They had tried to present the demands to her Wednesday at the conclusion of a noon protest held at the Alumni Amphitheater, but she was in a President's Council meeting preparing for today's session.

An estimated 300 students, faculty, staff and others attended the protest orchestrated by the Student Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and other campus organizations.

Among those observing the proceedings was Regent Steve Sisolak, who said the students' concerns would be looked into.

"I don't think their demands are unreasonable," Sisolak said.

Sisolak has led the fight in the equity-funding battle this year, forcing the Legislature, regents and the University and Community College System of Nevada to take a hard look at the distribution of funds throughout the system.

Senior political science major Joey Cohn read the demands and an open letter addressed to Harter to the largely supportive audience.

"Under your leadership," the letter to Harter said, "the Department of Public Safety has failed badly in its basic obligation to make each and every one of us who work on, live in and visit the university campus feel safe.

"This fear is not irrational. Many of us know of numerous instances of abusive police behavior, which range from verbal disrespect and harassment all the way to physical assault and unlawful arrests."

The university, at Harter's request, created a UNLV Department of Public Safety Advisory Board comprised of two faculty members, two undergraduate students, one graduate student, two professional staff, two classified staff, a campus administrator, a police professional not affiliated with UNLV, the UNLV Director of Public Safety, the UNLV code officer and a member of the Task Force for a Just and Inclusive Campus Environment.

The board is charged with overseeing the campus police department and helping set its goals, not investigating specific complaints lodged against police officers.

Students objected that the board is not an independent investigative body with authority to take disciplinary action if warranted, and their demands included:

Cohn said the demands are "the least we should expect from the leadership of a university aspiring to national recognition and to creating an environment where everyone, regardless of their background, feels secure."

State Assemblyman Wendell Williams, D-Las Vegas, was the keynote speaker at the protest rally.

Williams wrote the 1993 law that requires the state's two universities and now the community colleges to turn in annual police reports to the Legislature. Reports have not been filed the past two years.

"How can you have a first-class university if you have police that treat students like third-class citizens?" Williams asked the crowd.

Williams, chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, has asked the university presidents to attend a committee meeting Monday to explain why the police reports were not filed.

The meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. in Carson City but will be simulcast at the Sawyer State Building in Las Vegas.

Students at the rally were urged to attend.

University officials have maintained there was never an intent to cover up the reports, that it was merely an oversight that has been corrected.

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