Arrested or referred?: Punishment determined on case-by-case basis

By Alex Fiore

DeKALB | Busted.

When an NIU Police officer catches a student in violation of the university’s alcohol or cannabis policies, they have a choice to make: arrest the student or refer them to the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct (OCSSC). Whether a student is arrested or referred comes down to an officer’s discretion, said Lt. Curtis Young of the NIU Police Department. How that decision is made can be subjective.

“It’s dependent on the situation,” Young said.

Young said offenders police have dealt with before are more likely to be arrested. More often then not, however, offenders are not arrested.

“The courts are clogged, they wouldn’t have time to deal with every little thing,” he said.

This sentiment does not mean students should expect to be let off easy, though.

“The university doesn’t mess around. We don’t mess around,” he said.

Young said there is a desire to keep issues within the university and he stressed the advantages of judicial referral.

“They work fast and can impose severe sanctions,” he said. “We want people to comply at the lowest level possible.”

From Aug. 23 to April 1, there were 211 reported cases of alcohol violations by students, according to daily offense logsfrom the NIU Police.

Of those 211 cases, 168 of the offenders were referred to OCSSC for their actions and not arrested.

When referrals happened:

After an offense report is created by an officer, it is sent to OCSSC, said Brian Glick, OCSSC assistant director.

“That report comes over here, we review it, and make a determination,” he said.

While reviewing the report, Glick said the office realizes it is not totally complete.

“We understand that we are looking at one side of the story…it’s certainly not an open and shut case,” he said.

After the review, a preliminary conference is set up with the student, Glick said. The meeting is one-on-one between the student and an OCSSC staff member. During the meeting, students get an opportunity to explain their version of what happened.

“We explain our student conduct process from start to finish and certainly answer any questions about that,” Glick said. “The second part of that preliminary conference is an opportunity for a student to tell his side of the story about the incident, whether it’s alcohol or drugs.”

After the preliminary conference, a determination is made as to whether a policy violation actually occurred.

Sometimes further investigation is necessary, “whether that’s talking to additional people who may have been on scene or somebody who needs to provide additional evidence,” Glick said.

If a policy violation is found, the student may incur sanctions.

“Depending on what type of violation, there are different possible sanctions,” Glick said.

Glick said sanctions are based on two things, the first being the matter at hand.

“The first and foremost things sanctions are based on are ‘what are we here today for?’” he said.

The second criterion that determines sanctions is prior conduct history. Students that already have been found responsible for a prior violation are taken into account, Glick said. In the event a policy violation is not found, the student is free to go.

Glick stressed that there is no uniform sanction for offenses and each one is determined on an individual basis.

“It varies from case to case, and each person is specific,” he said.

Glick said many first-time alcohol offenders must complete e-Chug, a 20-minute survey/assessment hosted by San Diego State University.

“We may also refer students to the counseling center for substance use assessment,” he said.

Glick said occasionally fines are imposed as sanctions.

“Those are more common with repeat occurrences, as opposed to first time…but it doesn’t mean that it won’t necessarily be there,” he said.

When arrests happen:

From August 23 to April 1, 42 people were arrested for alcohol offenses, according to daily offense logs from the NIU PD.

Students are more likely to be arrested for cannabis offenses than alcohol offenses, according to daily offense log data. Of the 110 reported cases of possession of cannabis 30 grams and under, 41 people were arrested.

This is because, unlike alcohol, cannabis is illegal in all situations, Young said.

Young said people who are arrested are also referred to OCSSC because their offenses happened on campus.

“There are policies [students] must adhere to on campus,” Young said.

Once an officer has determined to arrest a student, they follow a process to complete the arrest.

The student is first searched, Young said. Who searches the student is based on gender.

After the student is read their Miranda Rights, they are transported to the NIU Police Department, where they are photographed and fingerprinted, he said.

The student is presented their charges in writing and then have the chance to post bond.

The cost of bond varies from offense to offense, and the NIU PD only accepts cash for bond payment, Young said.

After posting bond, the NIU PD makes sure the student has a safe way to get home, he said.

If the student does not have the cash to post bond, they may be issued an Individual Bond.

Illinois has given the NIU PD discretion to issue I-Bonds, Young said.

Under an I-Bond, the student is let go without posting bond, but must come to court to pay at a later date.