By Denise Lavoie, AP Legal Affairs Writer | November 7, 2005
BOSTON --As special state police officers, Harvard University police have the power to make arrests and execute search warrants on campus.
The student-run Harvard Crimson newspaper says that means campus police should also be subject to the same disclosure rules as municipal police departments.
The state's highest court heard arguments Monday in the Crimson's lawsuit against Harvard, which seeks to force campus police to turn over detailed arrest records.
Harvard says it is not subject to the state's public records laws because it's a private university and its police department is not a public entity.
"A campus police officer in a community like Harvard is very different than a municipal or state police officer," Harvard attorney Jeffrey Swope told the Supreme Judicial Court.
Crimson attorney Frances Cohen said the paper currently has access to daily crime logs, which contain bare descriptions of police activity. But the newspaper believes it should have access to detailed police reports on arrests and other incidents, Cohen said.
When campus police do make an arrest, Swope countered, records related to the arrest become public through the court system.
Joe Wrinn, a spokesman for Harvard, said campus police also have to protect students' privacy.
"We want to be transparent as much as we can ... but when there are issues of, say, medical transport, we don't believe that the Crimson or any reporter -- assuming a crime has not been committed -- should be able to find out who that was, what their medical condition was or why they were transported to health services," Wrinn said.
The justices took the matter under advisement and did not indicate when they would issue a ruling.
The Crimson sued Harvard in 2003 after the newspaper was denied in its request for police records.
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