University of Kentucky Investigates Search Of Student’s Dorm Room Caught On YouTube Video

j6k6s5The University of Kentucky (Lexington) is reportedly investigating an incident that is captured on a YouTube video where police force their way into a student’s dorm room in search of alcohol after a report of alcohol being dumped from the window. The student is told that he could be expelled and that they do not need a warrant to enter the room. Indeed, one officer is heard saying that “there is no fourth amendment.” One officer has been terminated, but notably the university says that it was not due to the entry into the room.

The officers cite “administrative rights” in entering the room and, in response to questions from the student about threatening to get him “kicked out,” that
Instead, one officer invoked “administrative rights” to enter the room and “we don’t have to explain anything to you son.” In the video below, the student is heard cursing at the officers and frankly being rather obnoxious. However, the officer is also telling him not to bother paying his tuition next term.

Here is the university rule:

Room Entry Policy

Authorized university personnel may enter a student’s residence hall room without permission for the following reasons:

To provide routine maintenance
To provide routine inspections to ensure that residents are following health, fire, and safety regulations
To respond to emergency situations; e.g., situations which threaten the health and/or safety of room occupants, and situations which require immediate maintenance to prevent property damage or immediate action to correct the health, fire and/or safety risk
When there is reason to believe that a violation of university policy is taking place in the room and occupants in the room do not open the door when requested to do so.
Authorization to enter a student’s room under this policy does not constitute authorization to conduct a search of the room.

It is an interesting rule since you are allowed entry to look for things but it does not constitute authorization for a search. That seems a bit contradictory in defining the rights of the occupant. THe entry is not being cited as the reason for the termination of the officer who was found to be “in violation of a number of university employment policies.”

Read more here:

Students often complain about the actions of university police at private universities who are not state actors and are not subject to the fourth amendment restrictions imposed on state and federal police. There can be state action elements for a public university like Kentucky. There has been a long complaint that police use that status to acquire evidence through campus police that could not be obtained without a warrant for an actual police search.

Throwing something out a window would obviously raise public safety issues. However, the student describes campus police looking in the refrigerator and it is hard to see how you can investigate the story without a search of the room. Where should the university draw the line in your view?

Source: Campus Reform

26 thoughts on “University of Kentucky Investigates Search Of Student’s Dorm Room Caught On YouTube Video”

  1. The easy way to handle the situation. The police contact the student and tell him not to do it again and that if he hits someone from five stories up then it could be considered assault. Goodbye.

    That aside there are some serious issues here that manifest as with the keystone cops here. That is the move toward “administrative” actions to overcome restrictions on criminal or other statutes.

    1) Coerciveness. Some colleges, such as the one my sister attended, required residency in the dorm for first year students. The college also has the power to hold a student’s future in jeopardy by denying the degree or to register for next semester, as so eloquently barked by these officers.

    2) Forgetting that In Loco Parentis goes away when the student becomes 18 years in age. Some school administrators mistakenly believe the freshman 19 year old is a subject of the school as a 13 year old is.

    3) Disregarding Residential Landlord Tenant laws. Since students pay rent (often at terrible prices per square foot of living space) and to an off campus non-scholastic landlord, the landlord cannot make entry without a narrowly defined set of reasons. But, as students of a university, in this case it is diminished.

    4) Making attendence at the college subject to the student accepting a set of rules that waive their privacy rights as consideration of admission. I believe this is inherently coercive. If we look at overtime wage laws, hourly employees are legally not permitted to waive overtime requirements in most occupations. The reason for this is that there is an inherently coercive element to an employee who’s livelihood is controlled by the employer and may “voluntairly” waive overtime to please an otherwise unapproving boss. By prohibiting the waiver, the employee is protected from this coercive situation. I would say the same could be said for the student being coerced into waiving their privacy as a consideration for an education which society demands for easier success in life.

    5) Using the administrative process to avoid landlord tenant rights and privacy rights guaranteed by the fourth amendment. This is a trend that my observation has convinced me to be increasing.

    6) Like it or not, this state university is a government agency. It receives tax dollars, it can make administrative rules, it might even have eminent domain powers. It is a government agency. Even if the security officers are contractors, in my view they are still acting in agency of government and therefore subject to the same restrictions as a gov’t law enforcement agent.

    Seems like living in a dorm in this Kentucky University is a good civics lesson in a minor way about living in Soviet Russia or East Germany.

  2. Beauchamp on Dec 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm
    For the third time in in recent memory, a Florida guard has been recorded viciously assaulting a defenseless teenage inmate on camera — but this guard is still supervising children.

    Shannon Lynn Abbott, an employee at the private Milton Girls Juvenile Residential Facility, threw an unidentified 15-year-old prisoner against a wall and a hard floor on a tape obtained by the Miami Herald. Though the prisoner showed no signs of resistance during the attack, Abbot and another guard proceeded to sit on the prisoner for several minutes while other people entered the room.

    Yet though Abbott is currently under arrest for assault, she’s somehow still in charge of young inmates:
    Although the encounter got Shannon Linn Abbott arrested, it didn’t get her fired. The 33-year-old bailed out and was back on the job right afterward and supervising children, to the extreme dismay of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

    Similar inhumanity is sadly common in the American juvenile prison system. Kids as young as 13 are thrown into solitary confinement and often denied access to basic health care. Many are in juvenile detention for minor school disciplinary violations that simply ”making adults mad.”

    Though private prisons like Milton Girls are rife with cruel treatment of prisoners, some members of Florida’s state legislature have pursued an illegal end-around to try to privatize the state’s prison health care system.’

    Think Progress article

  3. I wouldn’t let these “cops” search a phone booth much less any place where someone’s rights are affected.

  4. What Malisha said. One of the first rules in working in a jail or prison is to not provoke the inmates. We had a jailer a while back who strutted around as if he were cock of the walk. Finally, one of the inmates who he had been bullying grabbed him and took him hostage with a shank at his throat. Other, more level headed officers, managed to defuse the situation and no one was hurt, but it got really ugly really quick.

    A follow up note. The officer turned in his resignation the next day, which is not surprising. What did surprise me was to hear that he had applied for a job as a corrections officer at a nearby regional prison. What could possibly go wrong?

  5. I’m not to surprised at the kid’s language. When I was in college I picked up some bad language as everyday conversation. When I went home for vacation, it took me a while to realize that I was only using that kind of language and I cleanup my mouth. Young men who tend to associate only with other young men are not likely to realize that such language tends to inflame a situation when it’s best not to.

    He was right about his rights though. The University did the right thing in canning the one cop and let’s hope they continue doing the right thing by reviewing the fourth amendment, its relationship to dorm room entry by their cops and the training of their cops.

    From the demeanor of the other cops, one didn’t go in the room, another was only one or two steps inside, I don’t think the situation would have gone down the way it did but for the cop who was fired.

  6. The kid was obnoxious.

    There is no law against being obnoxious. Half the student body would be in jail if there were. (More than half of the court personnel charged with responsibility of getting that half into jail would have preceded them to jail, BTW.)

    The kid was stupid. He undoubtedly still is. That is his privilege. Kudos to the U/Kentucky for educating stupid kids.

    The cops were out of line, obnoxious, stupid, and in my opinion also criminal in that they were deliberately and knowingly setting up a situation that could easily have led to enormous violence and even death, of either one of them, the kid, or some other person. They created, escalated and ignored a situation that was already dangerous and possibly growing more so, and all that on the allegation that something HAD happened for which they could not rationally blame this fool they were rousting.

    How many acts of real violence start with this kind of asinine behavior?

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