Following the recent announcement that the Department of Education and the Joint Commission will be launching a review of the University of Michigan Health System for its six month delay in reporting that a medical resident possessed child pornography, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs used its weekly meeting to discuss the role of the Department of Public Safety in criminal incidents at the University.
Law Prof. Richard Friedman, a member of the DPS Oversight Committee — a group of faculty, staff and students that advise University officials on incidents filed against DPS officers — spoke to SACUA to clarify the role of DPS and the committee in the ongoing investigation.
During his address to SACUA, Friedman explained that the Michigan State Legislature established oversight committees in 1990 to independently oversee actions of University police forces. The University’s DPS Oversight Committee makes recommendations to Timothy Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, when complaints are filed against DPS.
After a female resident discovered a flash drive containing child pornography that belonged to former medical resident Stephen Jenson, she reported the incident to hospital security rather than DPS. Friedman said security personnel at UHMS are not part of DPS and therefore not under the oversight committee’s jurisdiction.
“If they are not within DPS, they are just not our job,” he said. “They do report ultimately to DPS, but they are not officers, they are employees.”
In response to members’ questions regarding extending the jurisdiction of the oversight committee to security personnel at UHMS, Friedman said it was beyond the authority of the committee. He added that he thought the advisory committee was not functioning as well it should.
“The rules are in a pretty bad state, and I’ve been working to redraft them,” Friedman said.
Committee members also considered a resolution that would further advise the University on the investigation. SACUA member John Lehman, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, called for an external investigation of the case.
“We (should) ask the administration to engage in an independent outside investigation and make those results public,” he said.
Other committee members said they agreed with the proposal, but believed SACUA should wait until the internal investigation is complete, including Medical School Prof. Charlie Koopmann.
“If there appears to be significant felonious or criminal activity, it should be expected to turn over to outside authorities who would be impartial.”
In light of the incident, SACUA drafted a statement questioning the University’s handling of the child pornography case and urging the administration to consider its recommendations.
“SACUA expects that the University will use this incident to carefully consider the recommendations of the Senate Assembly Resolution … on reporting criminal activity,” the statement said.