University attorney resigns in protest of CSUPD

Danny Bishop

Update (7 p.m.):

The University sent a general response to CSU Student Legal Services Attorney Robert Lowrey’s resignation letter Monday.

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“The university cannot comment on private personnel issues, including the resignation of Rob Lowrey,” stated the response. “In response to the assertions that CSUPD violates the Fourth Amendment, CSUPD and the university take these allegations seriously, and have worked over the last several months to review concerns about bicycle enforcement on campus. Because of the high concentration of pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles on campus, the university and department place an emphasis on bicycle safety to help prevent injury collisions. Students who serve as Campus Service Officers in our Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program, or BEEP, are trained to identify themselves as CSOs, and not as police officers, and to contact a certified CSUPD officer if someone is uncooperative after violating campus bicycle rules. Bicycles used for BEEP enforcement have been modified to help prevent confusion, and BEEP uniforms are distinguishable from that of a sworn police officer. CSUPD and university conversations will continue as we work to address safety and enforcement issues on campus.”

Original story:

Colorado State University Student Legal Services Attorney Robert Lowrey resigned to protest what he calls constitutional right violations by CSUPD, according to an email he sent to the Collegian.

Lowrey explained the reasoning behind his resignation in his open letter to CSU.

Lowrey said that CSUPD student employees who work as bike officers look like real officers, have detained students and identified themselves as police, which he said is a violation of students’ Fourth Amendment right.

“I am resigning in protest as a result of the University’s failure to recognize this as a problem and the University’s refusal to remedy it,” Lowrey wrote in the email.

CSUPD has an intern program where students work as bike Campus Service Officers and enforce bike laws on campus. These CSOs work for CSUPD in the Bicycle Enforcement Education Program.

CSOs are not police officers and students are not required to stop for one, according to Lowrey.

In a letter to CSUPD Police Chief Scott Harris sent in July, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado outlined issues in the BEEP program that violate students’ rights, like detaining students.

“Based on our review of the facts and law, we believe that such delegation of (CSO) authority is not authorized, and the student interns’ detention of individuals violates the Fourth Amendment,” stated the letter from the ACLU. “Thus, the CSUPD should cease this unconstitutional practice immediately.”

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In a September response to this letter, Senior Associate Legal Counsel Joshua Zugish wrote back to ACLU on behalf of CSU. In the letter, Zugish said ACLU’s accusation that Fourth Amendment rights are being violated by CSOs is based on misunderstanding.

Zugish wrote in the letter that the distinction between CSOs and police officers is apparent, and they are not trained to identify themselves as police.

“The shirts worn by BEEP officers only reference CSUPD in small type on the front of the shirt, with ‘Enforcement’ or ‘Bike Enforcement’ in large type on the back,” Zugish wrote. “They do not suggest or create confusion about the BEEP officers’ status.”

Zugish also explained the procedure that CSOs are expected to follow when encountering a student.

“(CSOs) are trained to state: ‘Hi, I’m Community Service Officer __ with the CSU Police Department doing bicycle enforcement, and I observed you commit (violation), may I see your identification or student ID please,” Zugish wrote.

Lowrey wrote that the response from the University to ACLU was inaccurate. He stated that CSOs’ uniforms are hard to distinguish from police officers’ and said they have identified themselves as police when encountering students.

“What (CSUPD) is trying to cover up is the illegality of the bike intern program as it has existed for years,” Lowrey wrote. “What they are trying to cover up is that CSU and CSUPD believe they can do whatever they want, break the law, and violate people’s rights without having to answer to anyone.”

According to a Voluntary Statement Form from CSUPD, where CSOs recount interactions with violators, CSOs have pursued violators who have refused to stop. In one instance, CSOs wrote that they followed a female from the Behavioral Science Building to the Aylesworth Residence Hall, then followed her into the Aylesworth Residence Hall Building after she said she was not going to stop.

“BEEP officers do not physically restrain or pursue alleged violators,” Zurgish wrote.

Lowrey wrote that issues regarding authority of CSOs and rights violations were brought to his attention in 2011. He said he has brought up his concerns to Student Legal Services, CSUPD Chief of Police, General Counsel, Dean of Students and President Tony Frank.

“There was no substantive response to the issue or my complaint; zero,”  Lowrey wrote. “I was admonished, though, to not bother President Frank with ‘process.'”

Lowrey stated he does not feel his issues with BEEP and CSOs have been heard by the University, which he said is the reason behind his resignation.

“CSUPD chooses campus safety over civil rights; I choose students’ rights and safety over my job,” Lowrey wrote.

Collegian City Beat Reporter Danny Bishop can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @DannyDBishop