Police apologize for Tank searches
By Channing Joseph

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 time.”
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 people.”
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 these circumstances.”
“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 concerned.”
“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 shaken.
“[My faith in] the College’s Office of Safety and Security is not what it had been before this happened,” Dowling said.
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 handled it.”
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.

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