The sight of a Brunswick Police Department cruiser or officer on a Saturday night is usually enough to strike fear deep into the soul of an intoxicated Bowdoin student. However, both Bowdoin and Brunswick Police administrators describe the relationship between the BPD and the College as healthy, and say that the police generally try to resolve situations using the least restrictive means possible.
Over the past few weeks, the Orient spoke with Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols, and Brunswick Police Department Commander Rick Desjardins about how Bowdoin students interact with the BPD. Both emphasized that students have at least some measure of control over their interactions with the police, and that the BPD generally tries to solve the problem using a minimum amount of force.
According to both Desjardins and Nichols, Brunswick Police officers do have different choices when deciding how to respond to a given interaction.
But, "once a student's been summonsed or arrested, it's a done deal," said Nichols. "The legal system takes over."
However, Desjardins said, if students act respectfully, an officer may be more lenient.
"The officers have to assess based on what they have in front of them," Desjardins said. "The student's or individual's role when we're interacting them is important. It's incredibly important whether or not there's going to be an exercise of discretion."
Nichols added that if the police officers feel comfortable with the way an interaction has unfolded, the BPD may turn the enforcement over to the Department of Safety and Security.
"Officers are often very open to allowing Bowdoin Security to take over and deal with [an interaction] through our own internal process," he said, which is "almost always better for the student."
"The internal discipline processes are serious and significant, and the [BPD] has a great respect for [them]," he added. However, if students act in such a way that an officer is forced to respond, "they're going to take the by-the-book route, which is a summons or an arrest."
In the event of an interaction between a student and the police, the BPD will inform Nichols of the event the next day. Nichols then reports it to the Dean of Student Affairs Office, and in addition to negotiating the Brunswick legal system, these students will also have to go through the school's legal system.
Nichols and Desjardins described some types of interactions where the BPD has less discretion.
Neighborhood complaints, and some situations involving alcohol, especially furnishing and OUIs, leave less leeway for police officers. Also, said Desjardins, cases where students are aggressive or ignore officers usually will result in stricter enforcement.
"Students should keep in mind to avoid situations that may attract the ire of local residents," Nichols said. "One of the key things that draw the police in are neighborhood complaints."
For his part, Desjardins said that while his department has a good relationship with Bowdoin students and security in general, he still said that he was "frustrated" and "concerned" with the number of OUI arrests of Bowdoin students each year.
Despite some of these negative interactions, Desjardins said that his department was not out to get Bowdoin students.
"We all have the same goal and objective, and that's keeping a safe environment for the students," Desjardins said. "Our philosophy here is [using] least restrictive means to resolve an issue."
Nichols said that he has been trying to make sure that students understand the nuances of interacting with police and neighbors. Towards this end, he has been meeting with each floor of the first-year dormitories, as well as all the off-campus houses.
"Our goal is to do everything in our power to make sure Bowdoin students don't get killed, injured, or arrested," he said. "I don't want our students to be blindsided."