Local or campus cops? 'Kathryn's Law' bounced from committee (sidebar to cover)

A bill that would require campus police to hand over control of certain violent crimes to local police departments won't pass this year, but the woman who inspired it remains hopeful.

"This is a bill for victims," says sexual assault victim advocate Susan Russell, founder of the website www.uvavictimsofrape.com. Russell became an activist after her daughter Kathryn said she was raped at UVA. Her alleged assailant was neither prosecuted nor punished in any way by the school.

The bill, known as HB2490, or Kathryn's Law, would have forced campus police to cede the lead on investigating on-campus murders and sexual assaults.

The measure was passed over by the Militia Police and Public Safety Committee on February 4, but, the bill's official sponsor, Delegate Paula Miller (D-Norfolk), says the Committee didn't reject it outright– members unanimously referred it to the Virginia Crime Commission, which will study the issue of campus investigations and make recommendations for reintroduction in next year's legislative session.

Russell is the not the only person to accuse UVA of pushing crime off its radar. Raped at a fraternity house in 1984, Liz Seccuro wrote a book that came out earlier this year alleging that the UVA hospital wouldn't test her with a rape kit and that administrators discouraged her from pressing charges against the student who– 23 years later– was convicted of attacking her.

More gravely, the family of Pat Collins, the graduate student who disappeared in 1986, has long contended that the UVA Police Department bungled the investigation. That view was recently bolstered when the FBI agent whose support for the Department warded off official inquiries revealed, in this week's cover story, that he's now sorry.

As for Russell, she expresses optimism that the bill to give local police departments control of big cases will come back to the General Assembly.

"I believe that if the Crime Commission looks at all the evidence and allows testimony from victims," says Russell, "this bill will become law."

–story updated March 17 with info about Seccuro and Collins cases


What brave, strong women - I consider you to be an inspiration to all women everywhere. Thank you!

Don't give up Susan, we all appreciate what you are doing.

This could happen to any of our daughters and we need to know that the community will prosecute whoever is at fault. It is unreasonable to believe that UVA can be objective in these crimes when their own students may be involved, and that could bring unwanted publicity to the institution.

Link to Victims of Rape website does not work. :(

I'm sure UVA and the other State U's will like this too. Now when they get cases that they're not able to prosecute someone else can take the heat for the decision.

If I was UVA law enforcement I'd lobby to pass this one quick.

@freelove freida: link is fixed. Sorry about that! -- Courteney Stuart

@Carrboro Pete: FYI, UVA (along with several other state and private institutions) sent several uniformed officers to testify against the passage of this bill. The schools do not want to share investigations of felony crimes that occur on their campus.To me, it's a no-brainer, but to them, it's losing the ability to cover up crimes.

Can some legally trained person tell me why crimes committed on UVA property do not come under the jurisdiction of the Va State Police? UVA is state property isn't it? Property not taxable to the city, etc.

@Wag: As I have harped on for years - it's jurisdiction. While I was in Richmond, the State Police told me if I had reported my daughter';s rape to them, they would have investigated. Alas, I have dozens of emails from the State police where they told me, in writing, they did not have jurisdiction. We'll let the Crime Commission sort it out over the summer. All the folks in key positions point at each other for dropping the ball -- the bottom line is that they all dropped the ball in our case and in dozens of other cases, too.

But then again, I ran across this article in the Washington Post -- seems UVA lately has had to cover up some hazing crimes: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/campus-overload/2011/03/police_investig...

Cover up hazing crimes?? Multiple news reports, interviews, and official statements by UVA. Either UVA is the worst person at covering things up, or maybe they ummm..... aren't covering it up.

The University Police are completely capable of investigating rape and murder, and I think that its insulting to them to suggest otherwise. They are a legally recognized police department using certified police officers and investigators, and they never done me wrong, they have always been quick and professional. The local police have enough on their plates, why force them to have more?

I am proud of UVa - my daughter graduated from UVa - but that said, I really do not trust the administration of UVa to do the right thing if UVa's reputation is at stake. They are too quick to ask parents to trust them at Orientation. They are too quick to tell parents to stop hovering. Too quick to tell parents to let their children make mistakes and learn. They are too quick with easy answers to difficult questions. I've heard too many actions like what happened to Kathryn and Susan R. If families don't advocate for their members, who will?

@DirtKicker: HB2490 does not force the local police to do more; it provides the victims of a FELONY crime the option to ask for local police to work with campus police to investigate the reported crime. Two sets of eyes looking at the information; less chance of a cover-up. The victims (and yes, the accused) deserve the two police departments to pool resources, use the best investigative techniques, and resolve these most heinous crimes that occur on campus property - ie FELONY crimes. Currently, if the felony occurs downtown, off-grounds, campus police are not involved. The issue of jurisdiction allows the university to turn a blind eye to rape. If anyone currently on the UVA campus police force thinks I'm making this up, they are welcome to open my daughter's case and revisit the investigation - which is more than reading the crappy police report that was submitted (yes, that's all Gibson has done and he calls that a "re-investigation".) The 2 UVA Detectives on the case ignored facts, did not document the facts, and because of their failure to do a proper investigation, allowed the perp to roam the campus and unfortunately he raped another girl 6 months later. Those are facts that no one can dispute.