CSU attorney’s letter of protest, resignation

Robert Lowrey

CSU police department’s so-called “bike cops” violate the constitutional rights of our students and CSU Administration is lying to cover it up. Undergraduates in polo shirts conduct illegal traffic stops on our streets, chasing students, yelling things like “Stop! Police!” blocking passage, and detaining students illegally.

THERE IS NO STATUTORY AUTHORITY REQUIRING AN INDIVIDUAL DETAINED IN A TRAFFIC STOP TO COMPLY WITH THE ORDERS OF ANOTHER WHO IS NOT A STATUTORILY-DEFINED, SWORN, CERTIFIED POLICE OFFICER.

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CSUPD interns are violating their detainees’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure….

The student interns may also be committing the crimes of Impersonating an Officer and False Imprisonment.

ACLU letter to CSU police chief Scott Harris, July 31, 2014. (emphasis added.)

CSU’s response denied the abuse was even happening:

Interns “are not trained to identify themselves as police officers.” Interns “do not physically refuse to allow alleged violators to pass….[they] do not restrain anyone from leaving, [and they] do not physically restrain or pursue alleged violators.”

Joshua Zugish, Office of General Counsel, September 2, 2014.

Mr. Zugish’s assertions are simply not true. CSUPD bike interns do pursue students, physically refuse to allow students to pass, and physically restrain students. It’s happened for years. Ask any student; they know it happens every day.

I have attached the ACLU letter, Mr. Zugish’ response, and a video, plus some CSUPD intern reports. The interns’ actions and statements contradict Mr. Zugish’s assertions that interns are not violating students’ civil rights.

Now CSUPD officers are violently arresting students who demand their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. At least three CSU students have been arrested this semester, after CSUPD received the ACLU letter and after CSU denied the stops were happening.

The “bike cops” are not cops; they are student interns. They have no right to issue commands or block anyone’s way. They have no right to chase, stop, or detain anyone. No one is required to stop for them, and everyone should be videotaping them. If no one does anything, more students will get hurt and end up with criminal arrest records.

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SLS tried for years to go through proper channels. CSUPD said they would keep doing it until someone told them to stop. We reached out to General Counsel and were flat out ignored. For years… I even got in some hot water for trying to bring it to President Frank’s attention.

Ask the District Attorneys what they’ll do with these Staff Interference charges out of CSUPD: they will dismiss because the stops are illegal. Same as when CSUPD criminally charged students for not opening their dorm room doors. Cases dismissed. No one is required to answer their door any more than they have to answer their phone. Also at CU when police tried a similar bike intern program. The DAs dismissed cases, University Counsel intervened, and the police corrected their error.

When prosecutors and the ACLU agree there’s a police problem, you know it’s really a problem. CSUPD’s student bicycle intern program is a big Fourth Amendment problem.

No one has to stop for bike interns any more than they have to stop for a plaza preacher. They can ask if you want to stop to talk. You can say “No.” It’s a US Supreme Court “consensual encounter.” We’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s Bill Of Rights, Founding Fathers stuff. Students cannot play cop and detain students. Police officers can detain students. That’s why we have police officers…

Sure, safety is important. People shouldn’t be rolling through stop signs on their bikes. People should have lights on when they ride at night. What the Public Safety Team forgets is the ends do not justify the means. As Benjamin Franklin said:

Those who would sacrifice essential liberty for temporary safety will deserve neither and lose both.

Ten of my twenty years in the law have been at CSU Student Legal Services. It has been a fulfilling, rewarding experience. I am thankful for every moment, but now it comes to an end. I hereby resign my post as Legal Counsel for CSU Students in protest of these Civil Rights violations by CSUPD and the refusal to act by CSU administration. I cannot work for an institution that claims the lofty ideals of higher education, yet shows zero regard for the law and the rights of citizens.

I hope you will stand up too. Otherwise it’s only going to get worse…

Rob Lowrey

Staff Attorney

Colorado State University

Student Legal Services