Russell's victory: Campus crime bill becomes law
After several years spent fighting to change the way the most serious crimes on college campuses are investigated, activist Susan Russell will at last see part of her wish fulfilled as a watered-down version of the bill inspired by her daughter's alleged rape at the University of Virginia has unanimously passed both the Virginia House and Senate.
"We are very glad to see some change has come from our efforts," says Russell, who became an advocate for campus safety after her daughter, Kathryn, reported being raped in 2004 by a fellow UVA student who was never charged with any crime, even after a second alleged victim came forward.
Russell and others impacted by crime at UVA, including sexual assault victim Liz Seccuro and the parents of slain Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, assert that campus police departments are not best equipped to handle murder and rape investigations and had urged that municipal law enforcement agencies take the lead in such cases.
Campus police departments including UVA's objected to the original wording of the bill, claiming their officers receive special training in sexual assault cases and are as effective as local authorities in investigating. After review by the Virginia Crime Commission late last year, the law (first known as HB2490 but approved as HB965) was softened to require only that when investigating campus rape and murder cases, university police enter into "mutual aid agreements" with local law enforcement.
So how does this sit with UVA Police— who have borne some stigma from allegedly mishandling the 1986 case of possible murder victim Pat Collins?
"I don't have a response either way," says UVA Police spokesperson Melissa Fielding. "We'll act within the law and continue to treat every case with the highest level of professionalism."
With approval from both senate and house, the bill will become law once Governor Bob McDonnell signs it.Read more on: Susan Russell