for Tank searches|
In an unusually humbling move, the Oberlin
Police Department released a public apology last week after an
unannounced room search conducted in the early morning hours of Feb.
12 left some residents of Tank Co-Op feeling shaken and outraged.
According to Chief of Police Michael Moorman, “the officers
involved failed to follow appropriate procedures” while in hot
pursuit of several students who had stolen a makeshift stop sign
during the all-campus blackout of the previous night.
“We have a
policy on how to treat people,” Moorman said, “and I don’t think
that what [the officers] did was the best thing to be done at the
The incident lasted approximately three hours, during
which some residents claimed they were not read their rights or even
told why they were being searched. Because several students later
filed complaints that officers allegedly awakened them by yelling
and entering their rooms with bright flashlights, Chief Moorman
investigated the matter and “determined that [issuing an apology]
would be the best thing to do.”
First-year Meredith Dowling,
along with her roommate sophomore Erin Brazell, was among the three
students who received written apologies for the room intrusions.
Although Dowling said she thought the officers were “overly
aggressive,” she noted that she also believed that they were
experiencing a greater degree of stress due to their increased
duties during the power outage.
“I have respect for what they
were going through,” Dowling said, “but I do feel that they are
trained officers of the law and that they should be able to deal
with the situation accordingly.”
Junior Sarah Updegraff, another
apology recipient, concurred.
“I understand why they were here.
I just think that they could have done it in a better way,”
Updegraff said. “Some of them have problems with being authority
figures, [and] I’m sure they’re not trying to hurt people or scare
Although both Dowling and Updegraff seemed generally
pleased with the efforts of the police to atone, they expressed
frustration that only those whose parents called the police
department received written apology letters.
“I wish they
would’ve written a letter of apology to the house [because] a lot of
people were really upset,” Updegraff said.
On a potentially
brighter side, however, Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith suggested
that the event might encourage dialogue about the relationship
between the College and the city police.
“There are only very
particular circumstances under which the police can enter a private
domicile — or, in this case, a student’s residence hall room,”
Goldsmith said. “I, and others, will be working with the police in
the coming days to make sure that we have the same understanding of
“I believe that [the] relationship is good
and will be getting still better,” he added.
The views of Dowling
and Updegraff seem to reflect a similar sentiment. In fact, Dowling
said that during the follow-up investigation of her complaint
against the police department, she felt “[the officers] were very
“They were very interested in making sure that we
felt good about what was going on,” she said. “I felt like they
really listened to what we had to say.”
“My faith in law
enforcement is definitely restored,” she added.
But Dowling and
Updegraff both asserted that their faith in Security had been
“[My faith in] the College’s Office of Safety and
Security is not what it had been before this happened,” Dowling
Updegraff agreed, saying, “I wasn’t very happy with
Security because they didn’t even apologize. The chief of police was
really nice and understanding. I was really happy with the way he
Bob Jones, Director of Safety and Security, would
say little about the incident.
“The local police made entry, and
they called us for assistance,” Jones said. He added that any
decision regarding the issue was now in the hands of Associate Dean
of Students Bill Stackman.