Students criticize police unit, policies at forum

By Valerie Bustamante and Kiana Tipton

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University of the Incarnate Word students asked administrators at a March 5 forum what action they will take in the wake of the Dec. 6 shooting death of Cameron Redus.

Redus, 23, was shot to death in the parking lot of his off-campus apartment by a UIW police officer who was making a traffic stop after reportedly seeing the student weaving his truck on Broadway.

The officer, Cpl. Chris Carter, remains on paid administrative leave. However, students seemed to become most upset when the police unit’s overseer, Doug Endsley, vice president of business and finance, said Carter possibly might return in an administrative position.

“Right now Carter is on administrative leave at home,” Endsley said. “When we get the police report back and we find out what it going to happen at the grand jury, there is a good chance he will return to work and he would do so in an administrative capacity.”

Then the students – some of them the closest friends and classmates of Redus – became visibly upset and started asking why campus police officers had no options other than a baton and gun – both reportedly factors in the Redus case. They questioned the physical conditioning and training of the police force. And they asked what policies might be changed.

Even before the Redus case, Endsley said, the department had planned to increase pay to better the applicant pool and improve some equipment. Now the department is looking into the adding of a dispatch function to be incorporated with the Alamo Heights Police Department and the UIW dispatcher.

As of 2010, a law changed that campus officers did not need to be deputized in order to work off-campus. The manual is now looking to be revised, Endsley said.

UIW police officers are required to be equipped with a firearm, baton and handcuffs,, he noted.

“(Our officers) are licensed by the state. They go through a program provided by the state and actually derive authority from the state,” he said.

When students asked why officers didn’t have pepper spray and Tasers, Endsley said those had been looked at but deemed unreliable.

“Pepper spray only serves to enrage a person furthermore,” Endsley said. “[The] outcome is not always positive, the situation just escalates further or there can be fatalities. So chemicals [such as the pepper spray] are not authorized and is not anticipated to be added but we will take a note on it.”

The use of a Taser was also among the safety suggestions but it was made clear not many police departments use them.

Students suggested physical requirements should be looked at when hiring new police officers.

“Physical requirements are something we would like to have but finding out if they are or not healthy is problematic,” Endsley said. “Rules cannot come up to change that. We do want to have the best police department possible and we will be looking to make it better. The police department has gone under a lot of attention and the best we can do is make it better.”

Student Government Association President Jonathan Guajardo said the SGA had established a safety committee that will be submitting recommendations to the administration in regards to campus safety. Guajardo asked Endsley if the administration would be receptive.

“We will take into consideration what students want,” Endsley said. “So if something is very important to the students, then it will be considered and may be implemented.”

Endsley and Chancellor Denise Doyle’s attempts to answer questions did not appear to satisfy the audience.

“It’s disappointing but not surprising,” said senior Sara Ghannam.

Without the police chief or director present, Ghannam said, “We got sub-par answers that were very generalized and were very indirect about what they were going to do.”

Mickey Redus, Cameron Redus’s father, wrote a two-page letter in response to comments made by administrators during the student forum on campus.

“This is an affront to us as a grieving family and should be an outrage to all students,” Redus wrote. “If policy changes were under way already, then why did UIW, knowing that there were problems with their policies, still allow their officers to operate in such a manner that ended in Cameron being shot five times? Even more troubling is the implication that no policy changes need to be made as the result of Cameron’s brutal slaying.”

Students also said they feel there are more issues with the police officers than can be fixed with a simple pay raise.

“Honestly, I don’t feel safe on campus anymore and not just because of the shooting by one of our officers but because our officers don’t look fit enough to protect us,” said Liz Washington, a sophomore.

Mickey Redus ended his letter with the hope to see a public statement issued from a senior administrator of UIW clarifying the information disclosed during the student forum. And the chancellor did address his concerns in a statement following his letter.

His letter went on to state: “In particular, we would like to understand what steps the university plans to take, regardless of any possible criminal actions involving Cpl. Chris Carter, to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again to the university community or to any other family. We believe that we as the family, the students, and faculty of UIW, and the citizens of Alamo Heights and San Antonio need and deserve that explanation.”

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