Crime Commission debates "Kathryn's Law" - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Crime Commission debates "Kathryn's Law"

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The role of campus police in the investigation of sexual assaults or deaths is the subject of a bill going before the General Assembly. It's called Kathryn's Law, for a UVA student who says her rape on campus was ignored.  

The delegate proposing Kathryn's Law says she's not trying to strip power from campus police, but wants to require them to work with another local police agency while investigating sexual assaults and deaths on campus. 

Kathryn Russell says 7 years ago she was raped at UVA, and her she claims the crime was mishandled and ignored by campus police and the university.  

"I had to go to my dean three times to report it. I had to work with the school repeatedly to try to get them to go forward and it was dissuaded at every turn," she said. 

UVA's current president recently apologized to Kathryn for the handling of her case. She still believes campus police should be forced to include other local police agencies in their investigations of rapes and murders. 

"The police report to the administration and, yes, they are sworn to uphold the law but they still report to the administration, and I do think having outside eyes and ears in that investigation would lead to more justice for victims," Kathryn said. 

33 died in the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. Police and the administration waited 2 hours before warning the campus there was a gunman on the loose. The question was posed at the hearing today...were those two hours the police, or the administration waiting to craft the right words?  

"I still believe there's an inherent conflict of interest," said Dan Harrington. 

Dan and Gil Harrington's daughter Morgan disappeared from the UVA campus in 2009. They say in the beginning campus police were not as willing to start investigating.  

"Looking back over two years, clearly there were a number of things a normal investigation would have done that were not done," Dan said. 

Local university police argue- not being involved in violent crimes- will hurt campus safety, especially in alerting the campus to a danger. And they say stripping their power over cases like this would cripple their integrity.  

"I think that would be detrimental. Officers would not want to work for an agency that is viewed by the General Assembly and the public as second class and that would reduce campus safety I think in the future," said Wendell Flinchum, Virginia Tech Police Chief. 

No decisions were made Wednesday. This was strictly a chance for the state crime commission to hear all sides of the debate before making any firm recommendations about Kathryn's Law. The outcome of the crime commission's vote next month could determine whether this goes before the General Assembly.

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