Student Arrest Sparks Outrage
The arrest of two Reed students on Monday, February 13 has sparked debate between the student body and the administration about the role of Community Safety in incidents involving drugs. The students were arrested at their Reed College Apartment after Community Safety Officers, who had searched the apartment after investigating a noise complaint, called the Portland Police in compliance with Reed’s memorandum of understanding, which requires Community Safety to report felonious drug crimes, with the Portland Police Bureau. The police seized “an estimated” two to three pounds of marijuana, a small amount of LSD and MDMA, scales, and packaging materials.
According to the PPB’s FlashAlert website, one of the students was charged with delivery of Marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, possession of marijuana, possession of MDMA, and possession of LSD. He will face these charges in late February. The other student was charged with delivery of marijuana and possession of marijuana, and has petitioned to enter a drug treatment program. The students were evicted from their apartment but will be allowed to return to campus for their classes.
On Thursday, February 16, at least a hundred students and multiple community members attended a Senate meeting set up to address questions and concerns about Reed’s drug policy. A reporter from The Oregonian was denied entry to the Student Union, but interviewed students after the meeting. Gary Granger, Director of Community Safety, and Mike Brody, Dean of Student Services, were present to answer questions. While they refused to answer questions about the specific case, citing legal and privacy concerns, both emphasized that room searches don’t happen unless students repeatedly refuse to seek mediation or counseling after multiple AOD violations. “We will search residences when there’s an escalating pattern, and conversation and documentation of violations have not resulted in a change in behavior. The other times is when there’s an imminent risk to life or safety,” Granger explained. Students claimed that the arrested students received notification of the imminent search only minutes before it occurred. Brody and Granger repeatedly emphasized that the arrested students had failed repeatedly to respond to mediation attempts and that they had been warned failure to comply with AOD policy would result in a search, “without delay.”
Several students, including Renee Mekuria ’12, said that they feared that students will be less likely to contact CSOs about more serious drug problems after the arrests. “I think that students feel less safe expressing whether they know that there’s heroin on campus or not,” Mekuria said. In response, Brody stated that the foremost concern of Community Safety is the safety of students. “This incidence has no bearing on the safety of a student with a heroin problem,” he said. He added that he shared the concern that students might be more “reticent to call for help because of what just happened,” and emphasized that he was not equating drug use with distribution.
Other students felt that the arrests signified a liaison between Community Safety and PPB that alienated the Reed community. One student shouted, “You’re making them refugees on their own campus.” Another said he had been stopped multiple times by CSOs after being reported as a suspicious person. Jordan Jackson ’15 asked, “Do you consider yourself a part of this community, or a liaison to the police?” Granger disputed that the two were mutually exclusive, saying, “Having a liaison with the police department is what allows us to deal with every small crime on this campus as a campus issue. We will never be able to exist in a place where we are outside the purview of the Portland Police Bureau,” he explained. “It is not my priority to go out and find marijuana. It is my priority to keep the campus safe.” Asked by a student whether he thought smoking marijuana was dangerous, Brody said he thought the distribution and possession of drugs was inherently dangerous.
The discussion touched briefly on the memorandum of understanding between PPB and Reed that outlines their mutual responsibilities to each other. Reed’s website explains that “Community Safety refers major crimes to PPB, and collaborates in further investigation of these incidents, in accordance with a written memorandum of understanding with PPB.” However, students expressed frustration that a copy of the memorandum could only be found on a single blog after extensive searching.
The Quest obtained a copy of the memorandum in an email from Granger. The memorandum states, “PPB will support the Reed College Campus Safety Department by responding to felony drug crimes that occur on the campus… If there is evidence of a felony drug crime… the evidence will be turned over to the Portland Police Bureau for its disposition and possible arrest.”