Rutgers and New Brunswick face lawsuit for not disclosing police jurisdiction
For the failure of disclosing maps of off-campus areas over which the New Brunswick and Rutgers police departments have jurisdiction, Charlie Kratovil, the editor-in-chief of New Brunswick Today, filed a lawsuit against Rutgers University and the city of New Brunswick.
Kratovil filed the suit with the Middlesex County Superior Court in hopes of clarifying changes made to RUPD jurisdiction since 2010, according to the official complaint.
The New Brunswick Police Department revoked RUPD’s ability to police traffic off-campus and granted them “Title 39” authority, or the power to issue parking tickets, according to a Dec. 20 article in New Brunswick Today
“Even though technically it only affects traffic enforcement, the Rutgers police will probably stick to areas where [they’re] allowed to pull people over,” said Kratovil, a New Brunswick resident.
He said the change would also strongly affect DUI arrests, since RUPD could no longer pursue drunk drivers in off-campus areas.
Russell Marchetta, spokesperson for the city, said he could not comment by press time due to lack of information about the suit. Capt. JT Miller of the New Brunswick Police Department could not be reached by press time.
Greg Trevor, senior director of Media Relations, said Rutgers does not comment on pending litigations.
Kratovil said he heard from an anonymous source that NBPD had a map of where exactly RUPD is allowed to patrol, but Rutgers never responded to requests and New Brunswick refused to release the information, which it deemed confidential.
He said based on information from his sources, the new rules would probably allow RUPD to patrol one to two blocks from the main campus, where University buildings are mixed with businesses. But the limits would not include Easton Avenue, north of Stone Street or west of Easton Avenue.
The lawsuit requested information about RUPD jurisdiction since 2010, so the public can see how the police services have changed over time.
Walter Luers, attorney for the case, said the map did not contain sensitive information.
“There’s really nothing special about the division of jurisdiction within the city,” he said. “Most of the time, you already know because you know where the town ends.”
Criminals do not plan where they commit crimes depending on the police in charge of that area, he said.
In the last city council meeting, Miller said the police are continually changing the map of jurisdiction for RUPD depending on construction and the location of buildings.
Kratovil said he did not understand how the process could take so long, since Rutgers had not recently changed the location of construction. He has heard rumors the changes were happening for an unspecified inappropriate reason.
The changes may already be affecting crime in the city, he said. Two students have been assaulted in the past month, and a former Rutgers student was murdered this month.
“There’s a lot of pressure to explain the public safety plan,” he said.
Kratovil said RUPD might have prevented the assaults, a cell phone robbery on Hamilton Street and a sexual assault on Townsend Street, if they were allowed to patrol where students live.
Since NBPD altered the jurisdiction during winter break, RUPD spent most of winter break patrolling around an empty campus, he said.
The questions about RUPD connect to wider concerns about accountability in the city police force. After NBPD’s internal affairs division received criticism for mishandling complaints, Mayor Jim Cahill established a separate court for reports of bad conduct, Kratovil said.
“The culture in the department is fatally flawed,” Kratovil said. “They’re all cowboy cops. They don’t tell you anything. They don’t want to help if there’s a problem.”
He said RUPD has a better reputation among students, and it should communicate better to help NBPD in neighborhoods that contain mostly students.
In 2011, two Rutgers students filed suit against NBPD for badly beating them during a raid in their building that uncovered no crime, according to mycentraljersey.com.
In Piscataway, RUPD is allowed to patrol in every area, he said.
Michael Martinez, a member of the Rutgers University Student Assembly’s public safety committee, agreed RUPD was a helpful resource.
“Everyone should be looking toward a safer campus, so you don’t have to worry about getting mugged when you walk down the street,” said Martinez, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student.
RUPD also provides free patrolling for the city, Luers said, since their funding comes from the University budget.
He said the real reason the city would not release the documents is they are embarrassed that they could not take advantage of free extra officers.
Martinez said RUSA would begin discussing a school-wide safety campaign this week.
Since the majority of crimes happen off-campus, he is concerned about the ability of RUPD to protect students in those areas.
“There’s still a lot of questions about why Rutgers lost their jurisdiction,” he said.