You have the right

Aug 262007
Authors: Rob Lowrey Student Legal Services

The more we as a community learn about our rights, the more we value the different philosophies at play, and the more we recognize these human elements of law enforcement, the better our relationships with our campus police officers will become. That’s where the Citizen’s Academy comes in.

The Colorado State University Police Department has announced that its 2007 Citizen’s Academy will begin September 13th.

This is the second year of the program and, since I was fortunate enough to participate last year, I wanted to take this opportunity to strongly encourage students, faculty, and staff to apply before the deadline this Friday, August 31, at 5pm.

Subjects covered at the academy include crime lab and communication center presentations and tours, police community relations, Colorado Revised Statutes, Constitutional Rights (arrest, search, and seizure), introduction to firearms, K-9 demonstration, patrol procedures, illegal drugs, alcohol awareness, police diversity, and arrest control/use of force policies (including the Taser).

Classes meet for two hours on eleven Thursday evenings (plus one Saturday at the firing range) over the Fall semester. Prerequisites to qualifying for the academy include:

1. Be CSU faculty, staff, or at least a sophomore with a 2.5 GPA

2. Have a desire to learn about law enforcement

3. Commit to attending all 12 classes

4. Pass a background check

I can’t say enough positive things about my experience in the academy last year, even though many would consider me an unlikely pitchman for a police department program.

I have been a criminal defense attorney going on twelve years, so I naturally have a different philosophy and a different approach than those in law enforcement.

Two examples: 1. A pamphlet handed out by CSUPD suggests full cooperation with the police including politely answering all questions, while I advise people to politely exercise their right to remain silent. 2. That same pamphlet advises everyone to always answer the door when the police show up, while I remind people that they are no more required to answer the door than they are required to answer the telephone.

Even with these differences, likely because of them, the academy was an incredible opportunity for me to see our campus police officers in their own element, understand how they think and operate behind the scenes, and gain a new appreciation for the commitment they have to their difficult and often dangerous jobs.

As Atticus Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

A more humorous modern adaptation of this notion goes like this: “Never criticize someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. That way, when they react, you’ll be a mile away and you will have their shoes.”

Whether you want to be a cop or a lawyer, an engineer or a fashion designer, if you are a CSU citizen interested in how your campus police force ticks, the Citizen’s Academy is an experience you will neither forget nor regret. For more information, and to access the online application, go to

Rob Lowrey is an attorney for Student Legal Services. SLS writes a column biweekly Mondays. Letters and Feedback can be sent to

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