Help me get my head on straight regarding a recent suspicious activity report we submitted and the police visit that resulted.
I work as an MRI tech at a public university. An MR scanner is a hazardous piece of equipment and it sits behind several limited-access doors.
A few days ago I was coming back to the office when I saw someone standing outside. Lots of students and community members visit our building daily to volunteer in paid research. We only have a part-time receptionist, so we keep the front door locked and rely on researchers to let their volunteers in.
I let the guy in and noticed that he looked a little older than a typical undergrad. He had messy hair, wore cargo shorts and thick-rimmed glasses, and carried a clipboard. I asked him what he was looking for. He said that he came from the graduate student government and was raising awareness of unionization. I said that we don't have any grad students in our building. Seeming a little confused, he gave me his card, got a drink of water, and saw himself out. This apparently wasn't his first appearance in our building, so our manager called it in to the non-emergency campus police number.
The officer campus police immediately dispatched had a gun and said that he carried at least ten pounds of extra ammo. He also boasted about the protective vest he was wearing under his shirt. He made our reception area his HQ and wasted at least two hours of our time, not to mention upsetting volunteers (including families with young children) with his appearance.
He delivered to us a lecture that began with "Now, this individual hasn't committed a real crime yet…" and went on to talk about terrorists from PETA who have "a corporate structure." I objected that the guy on the business card was a well-known union organizer and gadfly whose name was all over articles in the campus paper and student government meeting minutes. The officer all but laughed in my face at my temerity to believe that this guy might not be misrepresenting himself
. The officer apparently departed from the assumption that this guy was a threat, operating incognito and meaning to cause us indefinite harm.
Upon reaching the local branch of the union the guy purported to represent, he was told that yes, this guy was indeed a field rep. The officer demanded to meet with him in order to have "a conversation." In the end, he declared to us that he had reason to believe that the guy was harmless, but that we absolutely must be vigilant about who we let into our building, and that any visitor could potentially mean us harm. Then he began telling us that he'd been a TSA officer for years and that he's "seen it all." Then he finally left.
To be honest, this incident makes me less likely
to report anything to campus police. I've had acquaintances who were involved in grass-roots activism (e.g., PIRG), a lot of what they do is as irritating, foolhardy, and unlikely to succeed as what our visitor appeared to be doing. The policy of aggressively pursuing all visitors as potential terrorists really frightens me.
- Was this incident suspicious enough to be worth reporting?
- What sorts of incidents should we realistically report in the future? I'm worried that if we report that someone left behind a purse, they'll send a bomb squad.
- When we report future incidents that are not explicitly criminal, do we need to drop everything and put ourselves at the beck and call of the officer, or should we expect and request that the officer minimize his impact on our activity? This time pretty much everything came to a standstill while he investigated this completely innocuous incident.
- How do I form a better relationship with campus police? Ride-alongs? A visit to the department?