Purdue’s Black student groups demand changes in campus policing
Plus, Purdue releases more video from Feb. 4 arrest that went viral, set off special prosecutor’s investigation. Police call for new leads in Delphi murders. And naming rights at 2 high school venues
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BLACK STUDENT UNION, OTHERS DEMAND CHANGES IN CAMPUS POLICING
In the weeks between the time a video went viral of a Purdue police officer using his forearm to pin a Black student in a pile of snow during a Feb. 4 arrest and this week’s special prosecutor’s report that cleared the officer, Black Student Union leaders on campus have been talking about deeper structural reforms rather than random outrage.
On Wednesday, the Black Student Union, along with leaders from other Black student organizations on campus, posted a list of demands – “constructive actions” to “prevent this occurrence in the future,” they called it.
One member of the Black Student Union said students met with university administrators Wednesday and had what he called progress on things raised during two town hall-style forums that drew crowds that required two of Purdue’s largest lecture halls.
“For a lot of students, it’s a lot of emotions currently,” Nigel Taylor, a Purdue senior and vice president of the Black Student Union, said Wednesday afternoon. “But I think students are happy that there’s a list of actions to be done. And in terms of the administration, they’re pretty receptive to this list. They are listening. They are working to try to implement some of these things, if not all of them, at least to some degree.”
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Purdue officials did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions about the student demands or about the meeting. (Taylor declined to say which campus administrators or trustees students met with, only saying they had some level of authority over each point in the demands.)
A day earlier, Purdue released a statement that President Mitch Daniels would call for an outside review of the campus police department’s use of force policies. The university statement also said Officer Jon Selke – relegated to administrative duties until he goes through additional training on de-escalation tactics – apologized for the way he handled the encounter with Adonis Tuggle, a Purdue junior. The statement had Tuggle with a conciliatory stance and his attorney complimenting the university’s next steps. (No one in the release took calls for follow-up questions.)
Wednesday brought the letter from Black student leaders, who urged the Purdue administration “to address the current sentiments of distrust and anger many in the Black and Greater Lafayette community have towards Purdue University and the Purdue Police Department.”
The letter said the group had worked to communicate with Purdue administration, but that a “lack of transparency and communication” prompted Wednesday’s release.
It came signed by Jada Jenkins and Nigel Taylor, the president and vice president of the Black Student Union; Andrea Gipson-Dupery, president of the Purdue National Society of Black Engineers; Jasmine Pierce, president of the Purdue National Pan-Hellenic Council; Fehintolu Odelowo, president of the Purdue African Students Association; and Shannon Kang, president of the Purdue Student Government.
The letter included this as an upshot:
“This incident was unnecessary and displays the lack of effective and proficient de-escalation training. This incident blemishes Purdue’s rating as one of the safest campuses in the nation. It is incumbent upon the Purdue University Black Student Union to communicate the concerns of students to the university’s administration to call for reform that benefits current students and future Black Boilermakers alike, as well as the entirety of the Purdue community.”
Among the demands for the Purdue Police Department:
Officers should be required to complete “a comprehensive and formalized racial bias training.”
Nonviolent and domestic violence calls should have a trained social worker on the scene “who will assist in de-escalation as well.” The social workers would need to wear body cameras, as officers do.
In addition to racial bias training, officers would need to go through twice as much training in conflict resolution and de-escalation to prepare them for nonviolent situations.
The police department would have to record and show metrics “on all interactions and engagements with student organizations and events” on a monthly basis “to ensure that there are adequate levels of community engagement and relation-building between the Purdue Police Department and a racially diverse and culturally inclusive populations of Purdue University students, faculty and staff.” Those metrics, the letter says, would be a factor in police department funding and officer compensation.
Among the demands for the administration for transparency and support:
The Black Student Union called for the creation of a “Judiciary Review Board.” The board – made up of at least 20 student leaders, 15 faculty and staff members, five administrators and a Purdue trustee – would be available to review cases of rape, racial harassment, severe criminal deviance and any reported discriminatory actions on campus.
One of the review board’s roles: All requested body cam footage should be available for all calls, searches and public interactions to a Purdue Judiciary Review Committee within 48 hours of an incident “to properly ensure transparency and accountability.”
The administration should create a communications director position with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to make sure information about diversity initiatives and updates about racial, sexual or discriminatory incidents gets shared with the campus community “to the same degree and frequency that similar mass correspondence emails and surveys are sent out to update the student body.”
Taylor said he believed some of the students’ earliest suggestions moved slowly as university officials waited on a decision from Rodney Cummings, the Madison County prosecutor assigned as special prosecutor in Tuggle’s arrest. But he said there was work happening behind the scenes.
Taylor said some of the student demands could take time.
“I just want to emphasize that the administration is hearing us right now,” Taylor said. “But a lot of this stuff is very structurally based. Of course, changing structures doesn’t happen overnight. I don’t see the actual implementation to happen within the next three weeks, but I definitely do see progress.”
MEANWHILE, MORE VIDEO RELEASED: Daniels promised early on that Purdue would release footage from police body cameras and patrol car dashboard cameras on the scene near Lynn Hall on Feb. 4. Cummings on Monday released Selke’s body cam video, along with the one-minute video Tuggle posted that brought attention to the case. On Wednesday, Purdue posted links to video from other officers that showed different angles of the scuffle, an aftermath interview with Tuggle in the back of a squad car and police discussions with his girlfriend at the time. The university also released the initial phone call a witness made to Purdue police.
SEARCH FOR TIPS ON ‘ANTHONY_SHOTS’ WIDENS IN DELPHI
Investigators trying to solve the 2017 murders of Delphi teens Abby Williams and Libby German broadened a request for anyone who had contact with a fake social media profile going by “anthony_shots” to come forward. This time, according to Indiana State Police, they’re looking for anyone who was in touch with the account on the app Yellow, now known at Yubo.
In December, Indiana State Police said detectives were looking for anyone who communicated with, met or attempted to meet a person with the profile “anthony_shots.” Police said the fake profile, featuring photos of a male model and portraying itself as extremely wealthy, was used on Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms around the time Abby and Libby were killed while spending an afternoon on Delphi’s popular Monon High Bridge Trail.
That reference to “anthony_shots” – the first clue police made public in the unsolved Delphi murder case since April 2019 – led to Kline, who had been in the Miami County Jail since 2020 on multiple charges alleging child solicitation and related crimes. Court documents show Kline admitted to creating the “anthony_shots” profile. Court documents also show Kline had been investigated less than two weeks after Abby and Libby were killed, in connection with soliciting girls on Snapchat and Instagram using the fake profile. But nothing in the court documents specifically mention the Delphi case. And Kline has not been charged in connection with the murders. Kline said in a jailhouse interview with HLN that he was “100%” not the killer. A pretrial conference initially scheduled for Thursday, ahead of a trial later this year, was canceled, according to court records.
A 194-page court document turned up by podcast producers last month showed police pressing Kline about connections between the profile used to lure women and girls and what the detectives told him was one of the last contacts with Libby, before she and Abby went missing near Monon High Bridge on Feb. 13, 2017.
This week’s call for additional leads connected to the anthony_shots account did not give more details or context, other than the fact that police were looking for interactions on the Yubo app.
FOR MORE ON THE MURDER INVESTIGATION: The Indiana State Police maintains a site with composite sketches, audio and video files, along with reward information, in the 2017 murders of Abby Williams and Libby German. Go to: https://www.in.gov/isp/delphi.htm
TIPS: Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to send tips to: email@example.com.
JUST FOLLOWING UP: LSC APPROVES JOE HEATH COURT
Here’s a way in to a story from last week about the honor for Joe Heath, former Lafayette Jeff coach, teacher and principal.
SPEAKING OF RENAMING SCHOOL ATHLETIC VENUES …
This one is at McCutcheon High School, where TSC renamed the school’s softball field for longtime coach Jim Bates. Here’s the story behind it, via J&C reporter Sam King.
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