Let us be your voice

If you do the crime, you have to pay the time, right?

Right. There’s no contest there.

But what if during that “time” you felt you were treated unfairly? What if your health or well-being were put in danger? What if you felt you were being treated too harshly as an example to others?

In short, what if the punishment didn’t match the crime? Who do you complain to when the rule enforcers are the ones who seem to be breaking the rules?

We’ve been told overall arrests have decreased this semester. Drug and alcohol charges are down, and the courtrooms seemed more spacious after Halloween this year compared to last.

But this is still a college town, and we still have problems. The beginning of the year brought sexual assault allegations on campus and fights that resulted in stabbings downtown. The use and sale of drugs are still issues, and off-campus parties still draw police attention for underage drinking and loud music. Each year brings a new batch of students eager to test the limits of their freedom and a crowd of soon-to-be graduates enjoying their last stretch of an extended adolescence. The tensions between students and police will never go away.

But this year, more and more students and young non-students have said they’ve been treated unfairly by the Kent police. Jeremy A. Dalton was shocked by two stun guns during a drug bust, even though witnesses said he did not receive a warning before force was used. New Orleans native Greg Griffith said he was approached by police for just sitting in his car, and threatened and arrested after he did not allow them to search it. Members of Sigma Nu said their house was broken into during Kent’s Halloween celebration and attendees became sick after police sprayed pepper spray throughout the party. Currently, the FBI is doing its own investigation of this case.

Police have said all these uses of force have been justified and that nothing out of line has occurred. They’ve reported increased aggression against their officers during confrontations this semester and have complained about a general lack of respect from our generation. Finances are tight in Kent, and the police’s resources are stretched.

These could all be true. The student accounts could be true. We can’t take sides.

What we can do is try to get to the bottom of all this so the violence can stop.

The Undergraduate Student Senate is calling for students to come forward with information about inappropriate interactions between police and students. The senate plans to help students form cases against the Kent police if the actions merit that, and they will keep students’ identities anonymous.

The Daily Kent Stater also wants students and community members to speak up about any of their concerns. We’re looking for witnesses to tell us their stories or, if they don’t want their identities revealed, to give us tips to look into. We want to help, but we can’t be everywhere. We need you to let us be your voice.

Maybe these incidents are the only of their kind.

Maybe they’re only a small handful of a multitude of such abuses of power; we don’t know until you tell us.

Individually, these incidents can be written off, one by one by one, as justified uses of power, as small lapses in judgment, as exceptions to the rule. Together, these stories could form a larger picture, a pattern of what police-student relations are really like in Kent.

We don’t yet know what that picture is going to look like, but the Stater and USS want to help Kent State and the Kent community find out. It’s important for students today and in the future. Help us help our city.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.