Brown signs bill altering campus reports of violent crime

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On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill requiring designated campus officials to immediately share reports of certain violent crimes with local police departments unless the victim requests otherwise.

Assembly Bill 1433, or the student safety bill, authored by California Assemblymember Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, makes the disclosure of reports of sexual assault, violent crimes and hate crimes to local law enforcement a requirement for participants in the Cal Grant program. Sexual assault survivors have the option to remain anonymous or to not report the identity of their assailants to local police.

Gatto introduced the legislation after several high-profile universities, including the University of Southern California and UC Berkeley, were accused by students of mishandling sexual assault cases such as by allegedly underreporting the number of incidents to appear safer.

“This isn’t just a women’s issue, and we can’t keep viewing it through that lens,” said co-author of the bill Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal in an emailed statement.  “All of us expect our college campuses to be safe places for students, and yet when it comes to preventing sexual assault, they’re dropping the ball.”

UCPD qualifies as the law enforcement agency designated to receive incident reports coming from UC Berkeley. According to UCPD Lt. Eric Tejada, the law will not significantly change current UCPD reporting procedures.

“We’re confident that what we’ve been doing already for years is already able to comply with the law,” Tejada said.

Under a federal law known as the Clery Act, colleges are required to publish an annual report on campus crime that includes a public crime log and statistics for incidents on campus. For Gatto, however, the report did little to ensure an immediate response from authorities.

UC Berkeley senior Sofie Karasek, one of 31 survivors who filed federal complaints against the campus for allegedly mishandling sexual assault cases, said police do not always receive proper sensitivity training when dealing with sexual assault investigations.

“Inherently saying let’s forward these cases to police is not bad, but under the current criminal justice system setup, it is not to the benefit of survivor,” Karasek said. “It’s important that reports are only sent to local police with consent of survivors, but I think a lot more needs to be done for it to be considered a step forward.”

UC Berkeley junior Meghan Warner, chair of the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission, said “peer-to-peer education” and student organizations such as the campus Gender Equity Resource Center and Greeks Against Sexual Assault are more beneficial for students.

Campuses will be required to comply with the law by July 1, 2015, to allow time for schools to change manuals before the next academic year.

Contact Alex Barreira at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @abarreira_dc.