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Council supports police department review

SEBS Governing Council Treasurer Peter Canavan, left, and
President Zaid Abuhouran discuss endorsing a letter last night
calling for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation. – Photo by Alex Van Driesen

The School of Biological and Environmental Sciences Governing Council supported a proposal to bring in the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the conduct of the New Brunswick Police Department.

The council unanimously passed a resolution to endorse a letter penned on Friday by community activist Walter Hudson and student leaders asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the recent events surrounding the shooting of Barry Deloatch and other police misconduct.

Peter Canavan, SEBS Governing Council treasurer, presented the resolution to the council and said the shooting took place off of Commercial Avenue, which is where some off-campus School of Environmental and Biological students live.

New Brunswick resident Barry Deloatch was fatally shot on Sept. 22 after an altercation with the NBPD.

“The community activists here in New Brunswick feel that the county prosecutor’s office isn’t taking it seriously enough,” said Canavan, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office is investigating the details of the case.

At a meeting with about 20 student leaders on Friday, Hudson, the spokesman for the Deloatch family, said the shooting and mishandling of Internal Affairs investigations was a reason to call in a higher authority to investigate the matter.

Canavan, who was at the meeting as a representative from the Roosevelt Institute, a policy-oriented student group, said the endorsement comes from the University’s stance to help the community.

“This would be a way where we as students could help the community and get justice and find out what really happened,” he said. “I know [the Rutgers University Student Assembly] has also endorsed the letter, so this would just be us adding our support to it as well.”

While Mayor Jim Cahill said at a community forum last month that it is not in his power to invite the U.S. Department of Justice, changes in certain policies have been made. One includes that after a complaint is filed and reviewed by the NBPD, it must also be reviewed by the Middlesex County’s Prosecutors Office before it can be closed.

Diana Onuschak, SEBS Governing Council secretary, said the call for a justice department investigation does not necessarily mean the students believe the prosecutor’s office would be unfit for the task.

“I don’t think we are questioning their capability, but [the resolution] is just recognizing that there is something going on in the community that we are a part of,” said Onuschak, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.

Canavan said an investigation by the justice department should not affect the prosecutor’s office’s investigation.

“I think the prosecutor’s office should investigate it, but that should be no reason to stop a second check by the justice department,” he said.

Sharon Cubelo, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, said she supported the resolution even though the NBPD does not directly affect students at the University.

“It would be good to support it to show the students at Rutgers actually care about the police department protecting the area around Rutgers,” she said.

The council approved the resolution unanimously after little debate.

The SEBS Governing Council also unanimously approved a resolution to push for School of Environmental and Biological Sciences housing at the Busch, Engineering, Science and Technology (B.E.S.T.) residence hall.

School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students are currently not allowed to apply for housing in B.E.S.T. Hall, while students from other science-based schools are, according to the resolution.

Zaid Abuhouran, SEBS Governing Council president, said the residence hall might be good for some School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students whose majors are based on Busch campus.

“Most [School of Environmental and Biological Sciences] majors are on [Cook] campus but genetics and bioenvironmental engineering majors have their classes on Busch,” said Abuhouran, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.

At a previous meeting about two months ago, Executive Director for Residence Life Joan Carbone said it did not occur to the University that School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students would want to live on Busch campus.

The council also proposed a safety walk on Cook campus, in which students walk around campus to find security and safety issues — such as a lack of lighting or cracked sidewalks — and bring them to the attention to the University.

The walk is something the Rutgers University Police Department community officer coordinates with other departments like University Facilities and Housing, said Michelle Jefferson, dean of students.

“We walk the areas that you want us to cover, and we make notes of lights that are out or shrubs that need to be trimmed back because they are a safety hazard,” she said. “So it’s really important that we have student participation.”

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