Four students have received court summons in the past two weeks for charges of jaywalking and possession of liquor by a minor. One of those summons resulted after the Brunswick Police Department (BPD) showed up at the annual Cold War party at MacMillan and Quinby Houses last weekend, while the remaining three were issued the previous weekend.
Around 11:30 p.m. on Friday, BPD officers stopped at MacMillan and Quinby after hearing loud music and noticing intoxicated students on lawn between the two houses. BPD Commander of Support Services Mark Waltz said that the officers were on routine patrol, and the department had not received any noise complaints about the two houses that evening.
“For that time of night, they thought they better talk to them about calming it down, and then as they started to talk to people they realized that a lot of people had been drinking, some of whom were minors—and that shouldn’t be happening,” Waltz said.
Boris Dimitrov ’20, a MacMillan resident, spoke to police soon after they arrived at the parties.
“So the gist of it was basically [that] we were furnishing a place for underage people to drink, and they have the right to enter and arrest everyone there, is what they told me—and, they could arrest the house members for providing this place,” Dimitrov said. “I asked what we could do to prevent the arresting and they were like, ‘yeah, you’ve got about five minutes to shut everything down.’”
At the time of BPD’s arrival, the alcohol had been finished and the kegs had been checked, so no Security officers were on the premises, according to Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols.
Waltz said that after checking IDs of an initial group of students who were polite and cooperative, officers issued a warning and asked them to return to their rooms. A subsequent student, however, lied about the fact that she had been drinking and told the officers that “that under Bowdoin’s quote-unquote laws, that they were allowed to drink if you’re a minor,” said Waltz.
Officers took that student’s name and called her to the police station to issue her a summons the following day.
The BPD involvement at Cold War is the most salient incident in what many students perceive to be a recent increase in BPD activity around campus. the events have left many students concerned and have attracted the attention of school administrators. At the invitation of members of Bowdoin Student Government (BSG), Nichols visited BSG’s public comment time on Wednesday evening to discuss the incidents.
Early on the morning of Saturday February 10, a student ran from the police after pulling into a parking space in the Coffin Street parking lot, where officers, noting erratic driving, had followed the vehicle. BPD tracked that student to a dorm but was not able to identify the individual until Security conducted an investigation the following week. No summons or charges have been issued, but the incident is under review at the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs and BPD.
Four senior students—all of whom are over 21—said that BPD officers also stopped them on Harpswell Road early on the morning of February 11. According to one member of the group, two BPD officers who were patrolling on foot stopped them as they were leaving a party at Carlisle Apartments, commonly known among students as Lighthouse. The officers asked if they had been drinking, checked their IDs and radioed them in, then let them go. Another senior student said he was stopped by BPD officers while walking along Harpswell Road across from the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center.
That same night, BPD officers issued a summons to a different student for jaywalking while crossing Harpswell Road and two other students received summonses for possession of liquor by a minor in the same area.
Waltz says he does not believe that there has been an increased level of enforcement by BPD. He believes officers are simply responding to conspicuous violations of the law and less respectful behavior on the part of Bowdoin students.
“I think we’re out there as much as we always are,” he said. “I think what’s happened lately is that we’ve run into a … number of circumstances where the students weren’t cooperative. If you’re not cooperative, you’re more likely to get a summons.”
According to Nichols, both BPD and Security have received complaints from town residents about loud parties as well as about students walking in the middle of the road and not using crosswalks. He said that BPD has increased its presence on Harpswell Road in response.
“I think one of the realities is as the parties move predominantly off-campus we are disrupting more of the Brunswick neighborhoods,” said Franklin Ahrens ’18, Quinby House proctor. “And we are a disturbance when we are out late on weekend nights.”
“I look at it as a message of caution that the police are sending,” said Nichols. “That these are some problems we’re seeing, and to beware of the law and be safe, whether you’re walking on the street, crossing the street or using alcohol. These things are coming to the attention of the police and in a problematic way—they’re going to take action.”
Students were surprised that BPD officers entered MacMillan as part of their response to Cold War. Four MacMillan residents confirmed that they saw BPD officers, identified by their guns and different uniforms, inside the residence.
“I remember getting up stairs and talking to BPD although they definitely were not the most cooperative,” said Amie Sillah ’20, MacMillan House proctor. “I tried to talk to two officers who weren’t really giving me the time of day, so then I talked to another officer outside who explained to me what’s going on.”
Nichols was surprised to hear Saned Diaz ’20 at the BSG meeting say that BPD officers had entered her room on the third floor of MacMillan.
According to Nichols, no Security officers reported seeing BPD officers inside of MacMillan house. He noted that a Quinby resident had called Security to report that BPD officers were in Quinby, which later turned out to be false.
Although BPD’s incident report did not note the entrance of officers to MacMillan, Waltz said that BPD officers did have the legal authority to enter the property on the grounds of exigent circumstances because they had observed ongoing violations of the law.
Even the presence of officers outside the two Houses was alarming to students.
“When I was walking out of Mac[Millan] house with my friends we overheard an officer say that the chief told them to arrest any underage student who was drinking,” said Daniel Ralston ’21 at the BSG meeting on Wednesday.
“In my three years here I’ve never been at a College House party where BPD sort of intervened independently of Security,” said a junior male student who had been at Quinby and spoke with the Orient on the condition of anonymity.
“Security was there at the same time, but they were clearly there having heard that BPD was there, sort of trying to protect students and look out for students, whereas BPD was sort of just going after people,” he added.
Although students are accustomed to dealing with Security rather than BPD at on-campus parties, BPD intervention at College Houses is not unprecedented. Ahrens noted that BPD shut down a party last year at Reed House after a noise complaint.
Following the BPD activity at MacMillan house, some students have directed attention at the system of Alcohol Hosts (A-Hosts) and Entertainment Hosts (E-Host), which are required when students register parties with the Office of Residential Life. They noted that the system places legal responsibility on A-Hosts, and worried that increased BPD activity could spell the end of College Houses as spaces where underclassmen can consume alcohol safely.
“To what extent is an A-Host held responsible the system that the College is having us play?” Thomas Ezquerro ’18 asked Nichols during public comment time. “And if it is the case, that with increased BPD activity at a College House party, I can be cited for furnishing alcohol to minors, at what point do I challenge your system and say that this isn’t providing me with the necessary safeguards?”
“I think it’s really unfortunate that it happened [at a College House] because these are spaces where people are supposed to feel safe drinking and feel like they’re under the guise of other people who are trained to watch them to make sure that things aren’t going out of control, and that’s the exact opposite of what happened,” Sillah said.
Both Nichols and Waltz insisted that nothing has changed with respect to BPD’s relationship with the College.
“We both recognize that there are boundaries to what we can and can’t do,” Waltz said. “Security has no obligation to enforce the law—their job is to keep you safe. We obviously want to keep you safe, but we also have an obligation to enforce the law.”
Nichols remained adamant that students are breaking the law if they are drinking under the age of 21, and are subject to the consequences of that, which he does not control.
“The bottom line is,” said Waltz, “if things are indoors, then we have no reason to have our attention called to it—we’re probably not going to get involved. But if parties are outdoors, they’re visible to the public, they’re loud—they’re probably more likely to get our attention, either because someone’s called with a complaint or because they are loud.”
Emily Cohen and Jessica Piper contributed to this report.