Va. Crime Commission Backing Campus-Local Police Cooperation

Commission drafting mutual aid agreements for death, sex assault investigations

By LARRY O'DELL
|  Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011  |  Updated 8:14 PM EDT
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A Virginia crime commission considers how to improve investigations of sex assaults and homicides on college campuses as some victims and their parents have said they aren't always investigated properly.

Julie Carey

A Virginia crime commission considers how to improve investigations of sex assaults and homicides on college campuses as some victims and their parents have said they aren't always investigated properly.

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The Virginia State Crime Commission seems set to embrace legislation to bolster cooperation by campus and local police departments.

The commission on Wednesday directed its staff to draft a measure that would require the departments to adopt mutual aid agreements governing investigations of deaths and sexual assaults on Virginia campuses. The law would require those crimes to be reported to the commonwealth's attorney as well.

The commission will decide whether to make the measure part of its legislative package next month.

Victims and victims' parents have said campus investigations are not carried out properly.

Former University of Virginia student Kathryn Russell said her rape case in 2004 was never prosecuted. She and others accuse campus police of steering rape cases to administrative hearings rather than the courts, News4's Julie Carey reported.

The parents of Morgan Harrington, the Virginia Tech student who disappeared and was later found dead after attending a concert at UVA, said campus police initially were hesitant to launch a missing persons case.

Campus police chiefs defended their departments as highly trained and skilled, but most said they would support cooperative agreements with local police as long as they retain their status as lead investigator.

Delegate Paula Miller originally proposed legislation that would require campus police to hand off responsibility for death and sexual assault investigations to local police. Campus and local police alike opposed the bill, saying it would weaken college police departments.

In response to the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State, the commission also directed staff to draft legislation requiring college employees to report suspected child abuse.

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