Campus Police criticized over arrest
Rodney Roberts, a mentor to Missouri Western underclassmen for the past year, doesn’t think that campus is safe for his students anymore.
After a Feb. 27 altercation between two officers and former Men’s basketball player Lavonte Douglas, students have expressed their concerns with the Police Department’s relations with students.
Roberts, a Founder and the President of the Gentlemen of Color Association, a mentoring program for African-American underclassmen, thinks that Douglas’ situation was poorly handled by the officers on call.
“One of my biggest pet peeves is the fact that students feel endangered by officers on campus,” Roberts said.
Roberts also thinks that students can’t trust officers after the incident involving Douglas. He said that some girls who witnessed the event were crying because they felt so unsafe.
“I can’t stress enough that there is no reason that the students of this school should feel unsafe, threatened or just plain out in fear of our public safety officers,” Roberts said. “Who feels safe around you? You’re not real public safety, you’re bullies. You’re bullies with guns. You’re legal bullies.”
At the time of the incident, Douglas was approached in the food court by Corporal Robert Bidding and Officer Travis Fulton.
Douglas said that he felt threatened by Bidding and Fulton when they approached him in the food court. When Douglas refused to show them his Western ID card, Douglas said they tried to apprehend him. He ran up stairs to the Student Affairs office.
“I feel like some of Lavonte’s actions, like running up to the Student Affairs office, at no point should a student feel like that’s his only option that he needs to run through a building for his safety to another office. If we employ these officers to protect us, then why are we so scared of them?”
Although Roberts said he has never had any problems with either officer involved in the incident, he said he’s seen Fulton become rude and aggressive with other students.
Roberts said that complaints he’s heard from the freshmen he mentors is that Fulton is “aggressive, unfair, racist, stereotypes them and doesn’t really give them a fair shot.”
Roberts said that Fulton has never acted this way towards him, but he has seen Fulton treat other students unfairly. Roberts said he has had problems with Officer Nick Scheidegger.
“I have a history with Officer Scheidegger, the guy legitimately hates me, like legitimately hates me.” Roberts said. “Other police officers have actually told me like, ‘Stay out of his way, he seems to really not like you.’ There should be no reason for that.”
Tobias Pointer, the current president of the Black Student Union, believes there is a gap between officers and minorities on campus.
“As usual it’s always a lack of communication with higher power and minorities at Missouri Western State University,” Pointer said. “I believe the issue could have been solved in a much better way than it was.”
Two years ago, former BSU President Leah Hayes started a petition asking Western’s officers to undergo diversity training. Pointer believes this is something that officers would still benefit from.
“I feel diversity training would definitely help them deal with students that they feel are hostile or aggressive without having to go through the same route they did with Lavonte,” Pointer said.
University President Robert Vartabedian said that to his knowledge, the officers do undergo diversity training, but he is aware of a single issue with Fulton.
“I guess it depends on how you define problems,” Vartabedian said. “I think there was at least one other issue that was brought up but we investigated it and we investigated it to our satisfaction so I don’t think we would necessarily categorize it as a problem, but there was an issue we needed to deal with previously.”
Vartabedian wasn’t aware of any issues with other officers. Chief of Police Jon Kelley was unavailable for comment.
Student Government Association President Jacob Scott believes that Western’s police force is dedicated to protecting students.
“I don’t know if it’s necessarily a problem but it’s an ongoing educational experience,” Scott said. “There’s always a more and more diverse population on campus, people coming from different backgrounds and we operate differently we have a different understanding of authority and it’s important that we recognize our differences and come up with a method in which we handle these situations.”
Scott hopes that the investigation into the Feb. 27 incident is fair and said that SGA leaders could be a resource for Douglas in navigating the student handbook.
Douglas’s formal hearing with Western administration took place Wednesday at 3 p.m. The result of that hearing was not available at press time.