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