University Police updates protocol for assisting in on-campus arrests

Posted on Sep 13 2018 - 5:50am by Slade Rand

University Police assisted Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control in arresting a student on campus between classes on Aug. 28 but will handle similar arrest warrants differently in the future.

University police and ABC officers waited outside of a Political Science 101 class in Bishop Hall 209 that Tuesday afternoon to carry out an ABC warrant for the arrest of an 18-year-old Ole Miss student. As the class let out, officers handcuffed the student and led him through the crowded lobby to a squad car waiting in the parking lot between Bishop Hall and Paris-Yates Chapel. As officers escorted the suspect out, a crowd of students gathered on the Bishop Hall balcony overlooking that parking lot.

UPD Lt. Adam Peacock said the department will continue to assist in serving arrest warrants like this on campus but that it plans to do so in a less disruptive and public manner. He said UPD’s current protocol for assisting in serving arrest warrants differs from the way in which officers handled this recent incident.

The current department policy, which was established during the last few months, states that UPD officers should contact a student directly in the case that an outside agency provides a warrant for his or her arrest. Peacock said that once the warrant is received, UPD is expected to ask the student in question to come into the UPD office so that the arresting agency can make the arrest there, in a more private setting.

“That’s not what we’re hoping to make; that’s the change that we are making,” he said.

Peacock said he was notified of ABC’s plans to carry out the arrest and dispatched two officers to assist them at Bishop Hall. He said in this case, ABC officers had already identified the suspect’s class schedule and knew which classroom to wait outside of that afternoon. Peacock said in other cases, UPD will assist agencies in accessing students’ class schedules.

“We have to see a hard copy of the warrant, and then we can help out with class schedules or where (suspects) live or anything like that,” Peacock said.

Peacock said the Aug. 28 incident should have been handled according to the department’s new policy, but a “miscommunication between officers” might have led to the mistake. He said the new policy is a more proactive approach intended to reduce risk during these on-campus arrests.

“It’s a lot less stressful for students, and they get to protect a little bit of their dignity, for what it’s worth,” Peacock said.

He said UPD assists in serving an arrest warrant like this five or six times a semester, and UPD does not typically notify professors unless officers will have to disrupt class.

UPD Chief Ray Hawkins said the new policy was developed to be less intrusive to students’ class time.

“It’s just that we value our academic time and those academic spaces, and we want to make sure we are doing things that are conducive to that environment,” Hawkins said.

Junior psychology major Haley Box was in the political science class with the suspect just before officers made the arrest. She said that she and another classmate became scared when they saw the officers outside the door.

“When I noticed the police were outside the classroom, I started getting a little nervous,” Box said. “I saw other people looking outside because (the police) were peeping through the windows.”

She said watching officers place the student in handcuffs was “embarrassing.”

ABC Chief of Enforcement Russell Hanna confirmed that his agency served the arrest warrant on campus in response to an incident that occurred almost two weeks prior on the Square. According to Hanna, as ABC officers were detaining the student in question on Aug. 16 for being in possession of alcohol, the student fled the scene, and officers were unable to make an arrest. ABC then attained a warrant for the student’s arrest and came to campus Aug. 28 to arrest the suspect. Hanna declined to comment on whether or not his agency was made aware of UPD’s policy change prior to the start of this semester.