Police and Campus Security Brutality by Bishnu K. Panigrahi magine seeing your friend’s head “repeatedly smashed into the floor.” Imagine your friend not being “offered any medical attention” after the incident. This is not a fictitious story, unfortunately. This seemingly unthinkable scenario recently occurred at Colby College, where student Liz Beltran witnessed campus security officers brutally assault two of her friends. On April 12, 2009, after a party at the Colby Student Center, Ozzie Ramirez and his friend, Jacob Roundtree, were brutally attacked by Waterville policemen and campus security officers. Ramirez had allegedly interfered with the EMT’s attempts to aid an intoxicated student, and Roundtree had simply tried to approach security officers. After the incident, the two intoxicated students—both of whom are racial minorities—were arrested for assault and criminal trespass. Now, you can say that interfering with the EMT’s efforts to help a student is a crime, and as such the students should be punished accordingly. But the brutal response from policemen and security officers was an obvious overreaction. Slamming Ramirez’s head against the floor and spraying mace at Roundtree—who already had at least two officers literally on top of him—are not effective means of controlling a situation. A short video is available online documenting the atrocities, if you have the stomach for it: Excessive Force Used in the Unjustified Arrest of Colby College Students - iReport - Truveo Video Search. This case of police brutality is an utter embarrassment for both Colby College and the police, considering that campus security and the police force are institutions that are supposed to protect citizens, not mercilessly attack them. The irresponsible so-called “law-enforcers” completely misjudged a situation and used excessive force on defenseless students. Some witnesses stated that the student surrounded by the EMT’s was conscious and simply sleeping, which is a possible explanation for Ramirez’s actions. Regardless of his motivations, however, the vicious beating he endured is certainly out of proportion to any crime he may have committed. Probably in an effort to devalue the severity of their brutality, Police Chief Joseph Massey tried to emphasize the fact that the victims were intoxicated. “I hope some of [the Colby students’] criticisms of police and security is not their way of taking the focus off the real issue, which is alcohol,” he said. However, the reality is that alcohol is a completely separate issue; both of the victims are above the drinking age, and whether or not they should have been drinking does not justify the actions taken by the police. Further, even if the students were so intoxicated that they could not control themselves, the officer’s actions would still have been gratuitous. Spraying mace at a student who is already immobilized is inarguably brutal. The truth of the matter is that the police ruthlessly attacked two college students. Obviously, Officer Massey is trying to downplay this simple fact, as he sincerely stated on local television that the police officers at the scene “acted professionally.” Massey must be either completely oblivious to the reality of the situation or needs to learn the difference between law-enforcement and brutality. Naturally, Colby students are outraged, so much so that a new campus organization, Colby United, was conceived. Two days after the incident there was a campus demonstration during which the witnesses of the incident gave their accounts of what happened. All who spoke seemed to be in disbelief; seeing a friend, or even a stranger, being attacked is certainly not something that anyone should have to witness. One witness even claimed that she had heard a policeman tell a security guard that he would have used a Taser stun gun on Roundtree had there not been so many people in the area at the time,. The President of the College, William D. Adams, addressed the students during the demonstration, but neither he nor any member of the college administration offered an apology on behalf of the officers. The administration has only revealed that there is an ambiguous “investigation” being conducted. Brianna Lind, a student at Colby, explained her frustration with the administration’s lack of initiative and the speed at which the investigation is proceeding. She asked, “How many eye witnesses do you really need to convince others that the officers took inappropriate measures that night?” She explained how exasperating it is “to see how the media is one-dimensionally portraying Colby students as high on their horse, and rich and snobby people.” Despite the press’ portrayal, hundreds of Colby students are taking some sort of action; it’s pretty obvious that most students are heavily invested in making sure the officers are held accountable. Whether or not the victims actually physically abused the EMTs and officers in the first place is also disputed. Susie Hufstader, the interim leader of Amnesty International at Colby, explains that “Several student witnesses have come forward to say that the actions taken by Security officers and the police…were not provoked by violence.” The fact that the students were arrested for assault and criminal trespass lends an ironic twist to the whole situation. First, if there were any people “assaulted” that night, they were Ramirez and Roundtree. Second, as a Colby student mentioned in a campus forum on April 15, how were the Colby College students charged with criminal trespass at the Colby College Student Center? Does that mean that everyone else walking back to their dorm rooms that night should be charged with criminal trespass as well? Some can argue that the security and police officers were just doing their jobs. However, if this were true, then the officers were not trained properly, and the administration and police department should take steps in retraining their officers and should discipline those involved in the incident. After the attack, the campus security officers involved had their shifts changed. Also, each Colby security guard now has a recording device at all times; the officer can turn it on whenever necessary. If there are any future altercations, this plan can hopefully clarify any unclear situations. We cannot let these attacks slide by. The vicious violence could have been racially motivated, considering that it seems all of the officers present were white while the victims were racial minorities. Though nothing can be done to reverse the events of April 12th, we can make sure that these injustices are not repeated. Student activism is burgeoning on the Colby campus, and as this story gets more attention, more people want answers. The Colby administration and Waterville Police department must apologize for this particular incident. These egregious acts should remind us that police brutality on college campuses can happen, even somewhere as remote as Waterville, within the “Colby bubble.” Just because a college environment is relatively safe does not mean that standards should be relaxed. A full investigation should be conducted rapidly to ensure that these brutal actions are not repeated, both at Colby and at other college campuses.