Nearly one year after attorney’s resignation, CSUPD brings limited updates to bike cop program

Erik Petrovich

Former Student Legal Services Attorney Robert Lowrey resigned in protest of bike cop enforcement procedure last November. Since then, the Colorado State University Police Department and the Bike Enforcement and Education Program have made no major changes to the Campus Service Officer program from last year, according to Chief Scott Harris. He said CSUPD is making an effort toward additional transparency within their operations and has updated the bike cop uniform to be more distinguishable from those of CSUPD officers.

So what has changed?

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Chief Harris said that while there have not been any major procedural changes from last year, the department is reiterating the focus and mission of BEEP to their interns. CSUPD also changed the appearance of CSOs to help distinguish between interns and police officers.

According to Student Legal Services, CSOs have been specifically instructed against pursuing violators this year, which was an issue in the behavior of interns last year, according to Lowrey. Bike cops may instead contact a sworn CSUPD officer to pursue the person who committed a violation and will pass all authority to them in dealing with the case.

CSO uniforms now say “Bike Enforcement” in white lettering on the back and are colored light blue to contrast the black uniforms of CSUPD officers. CSO bikes used to have “Police” labeled on the frame, but to further distinguish between bike cops and police officers, this has since been removed.

Robert Lowrey and the ACLU

Lowrey served as legal counsel at Colorado State University for 10 years and officially resigned in an open letter Nov. 30, 2014, in protest of what he called unconstitutional practices by interns in the BEEP program. In the letter, Lowrey said student interns in the bike cop program were impersonating sworn officers by detaining students and pursuing those who did not stop at their request.

In a letter sent to CSUPD last year, the ACLU of Colorado said student interns’ detainment of students was a violation of fourth amendment rights. The letter referenced a video of an encounter where a CSO said that a student was not free to leave, despite not having the authority to detain.

CSU's new designated bike cops talking with students in front of Morgan Library on September 16th. (Photo Credit Caio Pereira)
CSU’s designated bike cops talking with students in front of the Morgan Library Sept. 16th. (Photo Credit: Caio Pereira.)

“Student bike enforcement and CSUPD training programs are focused on campus safety,” Chief Harris wrote in an email to the Collegian. “While there were some claims that CSOs identified themselves as police officers, as part of their training CSOs are instructed to identify themselves as bike enforcement officers.”

Rules of Engagement

The ACLU said CSOs do not receive certification from the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board, which manages the training and certification of all police officers in Colorado law enforcement agencies. Because of this, they do not have the authority to detain, pursue or otherwise infringe upon students’ rights when a bike violation is committed.

Their authority instead stems from the student conduct code, which states that failure to comply with the verbal or written directions of any University officials is a violation of that code. Because bike cops are considered University officials, a student who does not stop at the request of a CSO may receive a much more expensive fine from CSUPD.

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If a student feels uncomfortable when encountering a CSO, he or she should record the encounter, Orswell said. The video could be used as evidence later if the student felt the officer did not follow procedure.

“Even if a CSO will not actively pursue a student that will not stop for them, it is in the best interest of the student to stop anyway,” Orswell wrote in an email to the Collegian. “In my opinion, the risk of making the entire situation worse on themselves far outweighs any benefit of trying to get away or blow them off.”

CSUPD said students have the right to ask for the bike enforcement officer’s name or speak to the CSO supervisor if an issue arises during an encounter. If a student believes that they were wrongfully issued a ticket, he or she has the ability to appeal it through the CSUPD website.

“Being respectful of the role bike enforcement officers play in campus safety and responding to their requests helps ensure the safest and most reasonable outcome,” Chief Harris wrote. 

Collegian City Beat Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.