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California Mandates Campus Sexual Assault Reporting to Police
Posted by On Monday, October 27, 2014

Nearly a year ago, a California bill proposing to mandate campuses to report sexual assault and other crimes to the police garnered national attention. Now, that bill (designated AB 1433) has become law. AB 1433 requires most colleges, as a condition of receiving state Cal Grant funds, to immediately – or as soon as practically possible – report specified crimes against students to local law enforcement agencies without disclosing the student’s identity (unless the student consents). The reporting law takes effect immediately. However, schools have until July 1, 2015 to additionally adopt and implement policies and procedures to ensure that crimes are reported to local law enforcement.

What has changed

On September 29, 2014, AB 1433 became law, requiring California colleges and universities to immediately (or as soon as practically possible) alert the campus police or local law enforcement when a student or employee reports a violent crime:

  • willful homicide, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault (“Part 1 violent crimes”), as defined in the Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • sexual assault (e.g., rape or rape with an object, forced sodomy or oral copulation, sexual battery, or the threat of any of these)
  • any hate crime committed because of another person’s disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or association with a person or group with any of these characteristics

This new law makes reporting a condition of receiving Cal Grants that help qualifying students pay for college. And, no later than July 1, 2015, institutions of higher learning must “adopt and implement written policies and procedures to ensure” that crimes are immediately reported to law enforcement.

To protect victim’s privacy, the law requires that no identifying information about the alleged victim can be included in the report unless the victim consents. According to Newsweek, this provision was added after victims’ advocates objected that the initial draft of the bill, by making reporting mandatory without the alleged victim’s consent, would pressure sexual assault survivors to work with the police against their wishes.

Sexual assault survivor and UC Berkeley student Sofie Karasek, whom AB 1433 author Assemblyman Mike Gatto consulted in drafting the bill, put it this way:

“I figured it would be much easier and less stressful to report to the school as opposed to trying to go to trial, especially since I was an out-of-state freshman . . . I wasn’t interested in going through a long, ardorous [sic] process with police, who I thought probably wouldn’t believe what I was saying and wouldn’t put their full effort into my case.”

Karasek, according to Newsweek, joined other UC Berkeley students in a 2013 federal lawsuit against the University for failing to provide a timely and proper response to sexual assault allegations. AB 1433 was inspired by federal complaints against Occidental college involving more than 50 student and faculty members for violating federal law, by allegedly failing to disclose assault claims and discouraging women from reporting.

Agreements with police

In California, many colleges have established campus police forces with the primary authority for providing police, security, or investigative services on their campuses. Existing law requires written agreements with the city or county law enforcement agency responsible for policing the community where the campus is located.

AB 1433 does not change this, but it does require that local police be kept “in the loop” as soon as campus police receive crime reports. Reporting directly to the police will increase transparency and public accountability, according to Gatto as cited in the Assembly Floor Analysis of AB 1433:

“The bill’s author [Gatto] indicates that law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that they are not completely aware of crime trends in their jurisdictions because some university agreements do not require campus security to pass information along to local law enforcement . . . The author believes this bill is necessary to ensure that local law enforcement agencies are aware of crime trends, by ensuring campuses pass along reports.”

Gatto also “contends this bill could result in a closer working relationship between campuses and local police and sheriffs’ departments, which will result in more thorough investigations, better outcomes for victims, and safer communities.”

Note: Similar bills are pending in New Jersey. However, lawmakers and advocates for greater victim privacy oppose the proposed laws as written. We will keep you posted on further developments.

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