December 12th, 2012

Viral Video of College Cops Barging into Dorm Room Sparks Review within Police Department 19

By Carlos Miller

The viral video showing a pair of University of Kentucky-Lexington cops barging into a student’s dorm room without a warrant, searching for alcohol that they could not find, has sparked an internal review within the police department.

The cops had also threatened the student with expulsion before shoving the student aside, telling him there is “no Fourth Amendment.”

It turns out, there is a Fourth Amendment. And it applies to college dorms rooms. Especially in incidents caught on camera.

According to Campus Reform:

UKL’s spokesman Jay Blanton told Campus Reform on Tuesday afternoon that “the UK Police Department is reviewing this matter” but refused to address further questions.

The university’s official residence policy, available online, does allow administers and police to enter student’s dorm rooms for a variety of reasons but seems to bar warrantless searches.

“[A]uthorization to enter a student’s room under this policy does not constitute authorization to conduct a search of the room,” it says.

UKL’s police department did not provide a spokesperson to Campus Reform for comment, despite multiple requests and would not reveal whether or not the two officers are still on active duty.

Send stories, tips and videos to Carlos Miller.
  • Patriot

    Looks like these two will lose their cushy college jobs. If not imagine how much fun it will be for them to work at the college with the student body of this college laughing at them and making interesting comments to them as well as they walk by

    • qcp

      Nothing will happen to those two cops. They’ll most likely get a stern talking to and be the butt of a few jokes, but they’ll still walk around campus with guns and shit attitudes.

      • Russell Naylor

        Maybe this incident will prevent future incidents–at least for a while.

    • Matt Harrison

      The one was fired.

  • theMezz

    *Most* college police can search dorm rooms anytime with no warrant. The reason is that the student legally agrees to this when the room is leased. Just an FYI for you all.

    • ExCop-LawStudent

      That’s incorrect. Case law is clear on this, there is no “dorm room” exception to the Fourth Amendment. Princeton or another big school has a flyer with all the case law on it. If I get time, I’ll research it, but UK does not have the right to search the room.

      In any event, lease agreement or not, the student is present and is refusing consent.

      At that point they have to either get a warrant or back off.

      This is a clearly illegal search.

    • Russell Naylor

      I just read that the University is barred from requiring a 4th Amendment waiver. That’s why it’s a Constitutional right–it applies everywhere in the U.S. Just an FYI for you.

    • retrojim

      I think the key thing here is “publicly funded institution”. A private college might have different rules. The Constitution limits the authority of government, but not private parties entering into contracts. Otherwise HOAs wouldn’t exist ;-)

  • ExCop-LawStudent

    Universities may not create regulations or agreements that violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches, may not use evidence obtained in an unlawful search in an administrative hearing on student conduct, and university employees who violate a student’s rights are liable for damages. See Smyth v. Lubbers, 398 F. Supp. 777 (W.D. Mich. 1975).

    “The regulation cannot be construed or applied so as to give consent to a search for evidence for the primary purpose of a criminal prosecution. Otherwise, the regulation itself would constitute an unconstitutional attempt to require a student to waive his protection from unreasonable searches and seizures as a condition to his occupancy of a college dormitory room.” Piazzola v. Watkins, 442 F.2d 284, 289 (5th Cir. 1971).

    “We conclude that, when the campus police entered the defendant’s dormitory room without a warrant, they violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.” Com. v. Neilson, 423 Mass. 75, 80, 666 N.E.2d 984, 987 (1996) (on search after defendant refused consent).

    “A student naturally has the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizures, and a tax-supported public college may not compel a ‘waiver’ of that right as a condition precedent to admission.” Moore v. Student Affairs Comm. of Troy State Univ., 284 F. Supp. 725, 729 (M.D. Ala. 1968).

  • IO_IO

    Maybe UK needs to consult their own School of Law on this matter. It would make for an interesting case law study. So, after a case law review, a second case law review – do the “officers” get to keep their jobs?

    University of Kentucky
    College of Law
    620 S. Limestone
    Lexington, KY 40506-0048
    Phone: 859.257.1678
    Fax: 859.323.1061

    … also, was that not a case of assault when the officer came into the room and pushed the student back out of the way? Does the University of Kentucky condone assault by its employees?

    • ExCop-LawStudent

      The General Counsel of the University is likely a member of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA), which published an article listing all of the cases I cited.

      The university knows the law, the officers just violated the law. A lot depends on the culture of the department. Will they discipline the officers? Or will they sweep it under the rug?

  • JT

    The cop that barged in is the type that would mace seated,peaceful students.

    • Gordon Freeman

      Well if he looses this job he can take the one at UC Davis. Lt Pike lost his job. Perhaps they could just switch Universities.

  • matism

    The Terminator:

    One down!

  • Gregg Jones

    When I went to SUNY Albany 25 years ago they routinely entered and searched all rooms during fire drills. All students were required to leave their rooms during the drill. The residence directors entered all the rooms. They claimed they were not allowed to, and did not, open any closets or drawers. But if they noted any contraband in plain sight, seized it, and called the campus police.

  • ExCop-LawStudent

    According to news sources, the department fired Corporal David Thompson for “inappropriate physical contact”, i.e., battery, with a student.

    Thompson had been employed at UK for six years.

    While the termination for those grounds is certainly supportable, it is interesting that no mention of an illegal search is in the Chief’s statement. To the contrary, the news reports act as if the entry of the room is both reasonable and proper, despite the denial of consent by the occupant.

  • scruffylookingnerfherder

    I don’t actually advocate the officers losing their jobs, although they should get a short, temporary suspension as a monetary punishment. I do advocate the officers, ALL the officers, be required to go through training conducted by an external/civilian attorney which makes it very clear what student’s rights are, and that they may not violate it.

    Let’s say a person gets arrested for possession of drugs, and then it gets thrown out due to improper procedures. Despite having drugs, the defendant had to put out a ton of money for legal fees and such. One can say that the system worked (prevented false prosecution), and some will say that it didn’t work (druggie got away), but in all cases the guy was punished fairly heavily. I say the system doesn’t work, because even the innocent person is punished monetarily.

    Apply that to this. These cops lost their cool, and I think a temporary suspension, required coursework for the entire department, and a heavy amount of national embarrassment is a suitable punishment if this is a first offense. Maybe even a small settlement to the kid.

    There are levels of violation. It’s not an all-or-nothing, violated my rights issue. For instance, battery is not all the same, and touching someone on the arm is very different than punching someone in the jaw. But both are battery. This student wasn’t detained or arrested, and he got to really twist the verbal knife on these guys. He turned the cops into a laughing stock. He’s probably getting laid 3x/day because of it.

    (Yeah yeah, I know this’ll get modded down heavily. I have no love for cops, but I think firing is overboard if they can be trained to be less ignorant. A cop who crossed the line and was punished will understand the line better than someone new.)

    • ExCop-LawStudent

      We don’t know what sort of disciplinary record that the officer had, nor do we know if he was someone that they were looking for an excuse, any excuse, to fire.

      It could also be that the university’s upper administration didn’t like the negative press and just wanted to get rid of him for that reason. I’ve seen that at local universities.

      Termination surprised me, I would have thought a suspension would be adequate.

      I would have been more pleased if they had addressed the Fourth Amendment issues.

  • HomeSkillet

    That is EXACTLY what my school did.

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