The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and Law Enforcement Labor Services have taken the unusual (if not unprecedented) step of asking the University of Minnesota to investigate a student because of her appeal to make campus police force alive ” Hell ”. In a videoconference, student Lauren Meyers is caught making statements in her capacity as Chief Financial Officer of the Executive Board of the Minnesota Student Association.
The videoconference followed a decision by student leaders to send a letter to the University of Minnesota Administration demanding the resignation of the University of Minnesota Police Department Chief of Police (UMPD). The letter threatens “direct action” if “our demands are not met”.
In the video conference, Meyers calls on the students to tie up the police and harass them. Here is the critical exchange:
UofM ranking representative Andy Knuppel: You say that UMPD interfere. What exactly do you mean? “
Meyers: “Make your life hell.”
Meyers: “Annoy the shit out of them”
Meyers: I say what are they over? I don’t know Amy do you know Morgan, you mentioned things with UMPD. [pause] Use up your resources. Make your officers show up for something. Uh. “
The police organizations assert the possible violation of state law. In particular, they cite Section 609.78 (see below) on disrupting emergency calls and communications from law enforcement agencies. This provision includes offenses such as “plac[ing] an emergency call and reports a fictitious emergency with the intention of triggering an emergency response by law enforcement, fire or rescue service personnel. “
Additionally, calling for the campus police force to be tied down could harm other students who may find the police unable to respond quickly to real campus threats or crimes.
The university rules of conduct for students prohibit:
Subd. 8. Assists or Abets. A student or group of students supports or encourages prohibited behavior if the student or group of students: (a) helps another person engage in misconduct under the Student Code of Conduct; and (b) intends the misconduct to occur or knows that their actions are likely to help the other person engage in the misconduct.
As it will not be a surprise to many on this blog, I would oppose any criminal charges against Meyers for engaging in political speech. She did not interfere in police calls or directly participate in this criminal behavior. I believe that the first amendment should protect such a speech, even if it is inconsiderate and offensive.
In addition, for such comments, I would speak out against the expulsion or suspension of Meyers. However, I believe the university has an obligation to respond, including issuing a formal reprimand, as Meyers, in their official capacity, called for harassment. Your call could endanger officers as well as other students. Such a transgression warrants a reaction, but also another chance for Meyers to show more maturity and judgment. College students often make silly mistakes, especially when embroiled in the passions of protest or social cause. You can learn from such mistakes, and universities should try to work with such students.
My greatest concern is the different treatment of students based on the content of such statements. I don’t expect Meyers to be expelled. However, a clear and formal response from the university to this dangerous statement is required. In all honesty, I’m not sure the university would be as prudent in cases where such reckless language is directed at other groups or concerns. The key protection for free speech is a clear line of protection that is clear and, most importantly, consistent.
The university made a fairly lukewarm statement stating that while Meyers could request criminal acts, it contained no reference to reprimand or other formal sanction:
“The university respects the Minnesota Student Association’s autonomy as an independent governance organization for undergraduate students, including the autonomy of its members to speak freely. In this case, however, the university clearly contradicts the ideas that could disrupt the day-to-day work of UMPD. These ideas are illegal and would be in direct contradiction to ongoing efforts to protect our campus community. “
This is little more than a “disagreement” when a student leader advocates criminal acts to harass campus police and make it difficult for them to respond to calls. At the very least, the school should determine that requesting such harassment is a violation of student code and that such behavior will not be tolerated in any student, including Meyers.
Here is the underlying criminal law provision:
609.78 EMERGENCY TELEPHONE CALLS AND COMMUNICATIONS.
Subdivision 1. Administrative offenses.
Anyone who does the following is guilty of an offense:
(4) makes a call to the emergency police, fire brigade, medical service or ambulance service knowing that there is no police, fire brigade or medical emergency present;
(6) Makes or initiates an emergency call in the knowledge that there is no emergency and with the intention of disrupting, disrupting or reducing the resources of the emergency call center, is silent or makes abusive or harassing statements by the recipient of the call .
Subd. 2. Major offenses criminal offenses.
Anyone who does the following is guilty of gross misdemeanor:
(1) intentionally interrupts, disrupts, hinders or disturbs an emergency call, or that intentionally prevents or prevents another from making an emergency call and whose conduct does not result in a violation of Section 609.498;
(2) makes an emergency call and reports a fictitious emergency with the intention of triggering an emergency response by law enforcement, fire or rescue services personnel; or
(3) violates subsection 1, clause (6) after having previously been convicted of violating this clause or convicted as a criminal.
Subd. 2a.Felony offense; Notification of a fictitious emergency with serious injuries.
Anyone violating Subsection 2, Clause (2) is guilty of a crime and may be sentenced to no more than ten years’ imprisonment or a fine of no more than $ 20,000 or both if the call causes an emergency response and as a result in response, someone suffers great assault or death.
Subd. 2b.Other offenses.
Anyone who does the following is guilty of a crime and can be sentenced to a maximum of five years’ imprisonment or a fine of no more than $ 10,000, or both:
(1) violates subsection 1, clause (6) after having previously been convicted of more than one violation of this clause or convicted as a criminal; or
(2) intentionally uses multiple communication devices or electronic means to block, disrupt, overload, or otherwise prevent the emergency response center system, and these measures render the system unavailable to someone in need of emergency assistance.