A Small, but Growing Department
Madison College’s Police Department was very small during the 1970s, but even at that point it had grown quite a bit from the two policemen and a night watchman who had been employed in the late 60s. From 76 to 79 there were 15 policemen, plus a number of campus cadets. This meant that the ratio of students to police was 514 to 1. Although the number of officers rose steadily in the 70s, it was not nearly enough to keep up with the growth of the student population.
Jay Crider was the chief of police for much of the decade. He oversaw eleven campus police officers, two sergeants and one special investigator. The special investigator was a new position in the 1970s. He worked on cases that might take a good deal of time. The campus police department came under the supervision of the safety and security director of the College, William Wilberger. Considering the size of the student body, one might expect eleven officers to be on duty at any given time, not in the entire department. At a time of increased student enrollment, and therefore increased police workload, there was no corresponding increase in police staffing(Carlson).
To be initially accepted at a campus police officer did not require too stringent qualifications, and even those that there were were informal, no written requirements existed. Applicants needed no previous experience, but must meet a minimum height requirement and have a high school diploma. They also needed to be in good physical and mental condition. Additionally it was preferred that they be young, married men, and therefore more settled and unlikely to leave the department quickly, and have some knowledge of police procedure. Applicants were interviewed two different times during the selection process, and were given thorough background checks. Officers chose campus policing for different reasons, but ultimately most of them loved their jobs and wanted to help their community (Starling).
Campus police operated in an interesting way. Although they are technically considered state police their jurisdiction only includes the campus itself, university owned properties, and streets adjacent to campus. They could only make arrests outside this area provided they were in hot pursuit. For this reason, Harrisonburg police and campus police rarely interacted except in more serious cases such as if a student were arrested on campus for a crime committed elsewhere. If a person was arrested by campus police, a decision would be made whether they would be put through the university’s judicial system, the Harrisonburg courts, or both. There were no set guidelines for what actions should be taken; the arresting officer made the choice on a case by case basis. This allowed officers to be lenient with students, or to step up punishments in keeping with the severity of the offense. The example Crider gives is of a student caught in the act of vandalizing university property. He might simply go through the university judicial system if he is cooperative, but if he were intoxicated he could be formally charged with a crime.
One way to exemplify this leniency is to show the opposite. A fraternity, Sigma Pi, held a party which received a noise complaint from neighbors. Harrisonburg Police came by to give a warning, and then came around again a few hours later with a summons to appear in court. According to a member of the fraternity the party was already over at that point. Had this party occurred on campus, it is unlikely that (were a complaint even made) the fraternity would be sent to court over it. They would probably have simply been warned, or have to go through the College’s judicial system, a much more lenient one overall. A member of Sigma Pi gave a telling statement to the Breeze about the open house the fraternity held afterward to improve their relations with neighbors. According to Dennis Jackson, the Sigma Pi brother, “Neighbors have been invited to drop by so we can tell them who to call if there are problems in the future,” It seems most likely that those who came by were told to call campus police the next time there was a problem (Richardson).
Much like the campus was a small and insulated community in the 1970s, so the Campus Police Department was small and isolated by way of jurisdictions. However, while the student population was growing fast, the police department could not seem to keep up with the rapid expansion. Luckily the low crime rates and alternate crime prevention methods such as the creation of Campus Cadets made it possible for the department to do its job despite this issue.
Carlson, Kris. “Campus Police Department Too Small.” The Breeze, 20 March 1979, p.1.
Richardson, Vance. “Frat Issued Summons,” The Breeze, 11 September 1979, p. 10.
Starling, Wade. “Campus Security Operations – A Variety of Tasks,” The Breeze, 21 January 1975, p. 4.