by Lindsey Hobbs
This is the second in a two-part series about the newly minted Otterbein University police department's handling of criminal records. Read the first story, "Exploring an alternative justice system," also by Lindsey Hobbs, here.
Once readily available, public records dealing with safety issues have become sparse since Otterbein University commissioned its own police department.
The Otterbein Police Department said that because Otterbein is a private institution, it does not need to comply with the Ohio Public Records Act and does not have to release full documentation.
However, according to state law, a private entity can be defined as a public office if it performs a governmental function.
Stephen Dyer, a former state representative and a lawyer in the Akron area, said that's the why Otterbein Police Department should be disclosing campus crime and incident reports.
Recent cases in Indiana and North Carolina may set precedent for similar reasoning, but the premise has yet to be tested in Ohio, according to Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center.
At Otterbein, part of the debate hinges on the justice system being split into two divisions: criminal and judicial.
Currently, all the roles and responsibilities of the judicial process at Otterbein — the charges, the judge, the jury, the prosecutor and the best interest of the student — reside in the same department of Student Affairs.