ASUPD has been in the media spotlight a great deal recently, and this time, it’s for a good reason; ASUPD, in partnership with university officials, have kicked off a campaign called “Start by Believing” to show support for victims of sexual violence. According to the campaign website, the theory behind the slogan is:
…to bring attention to victims of sexual assault, and not revictimize them through disbelief when they report the crime. Disbelief may come from friends, family, nurses, law enforcement or others whom the victim normally would expect to support them….There are many instances that aren’t reported because of fear of being told that someone brought it on themselves. This type of thinking needs to change. We need to start by believing victims of sexual assault when they come forward. It’s traumatic enough.
The article also mentions the “proclamation” signed by Chief Pickens and Michael Crow (which all department employees received a copy of) that shows how committed ASUPD is to serving victims of sexual violence.
While we think the attention given to the issue of sexual violence on campus is much deserved, we can’t help but be struck by the irony of the situation. The sudden emphasis on sexual violence victims comes on the heels of an article we posted on the safety of students on campus under Title IX, as well as an article about how ASUPD omitted or incorrectly reported the number of sex offenses reported under the Clery Act. Let’s also not forget the rash of sex offenses that occurred during ASU’s “Safe and Sober Campaign”, or the increase in ASU’s sex offense numbers that were actually reported to Clery.
If ASUPD is serious about supporting victims of sexual violence, they could start by appropriately reporting sex offenses in the Clery Report, as they are required to do, by law. Omitting or reclassifying sex crimes into lesser offenses (such as assault) not only revictimizes the victim, it is another way of telling the victim “we don’t really believe you”.
Next, to counter the recent increase in sex offenses, Chief Pickens could actually staff and maintain a fully-functioning police department that has the ability to proactively deter crime, instead of punting ASU’s problems to the City of Tempe. Actively participating in the campaigns you sponsor/are involved in such as “Safe and Sober”, DUI Task Force, or the Student Safety Taskforce would work to both deter crime and show the campus community how committed you are to making ASU a safer place.
Finally, if ASUPD is serious about supporting victims of sexual violence, they can give their officers the appropriate training they need to effectively do their jobs. The academy spends very little time on training officers on how to deal with sexual assault reports, and the little bit of training that is retained fades exponentially with time. Allocating resources to the people who will actually be HANDLING sexual violence cases ensure cases are appropriately handled, and is more cost-effective than dealing with civil lawsuits or wasting tax payer dollars by writing a fancy “proclamation”.
No amount of squishy emails or “proclamations” sent to ASU’s students/faculty/staff can make up for the fact that behind the glossy exterior of ASUPD’s new building, new uniforms, new badges is a top-heavy Command staff completely devoid of compassion and integrity. No amount of campaigns that ASUPD “participates” in can cover up the glaring irony that exists within its “proclamation”.
Chief Pickens, you need to “Start by Believing” ASUPD is part of the problem before you can commit to supporting victims of sexual violence.