URBANA — With a new school year under way, the University of Illinois Police Department is reminding students and others of the university’s and the state of Illinois’ medical amnesty procedures, which protect students from getting in trouble when they call 911 to help someone in need.
Fear of receiving an underage drinking ticket may be a deterrent for some students to call for police or medical help when they or someone they know is in need.
A new state law which went into effect last year protects students from receiving a drinking ticket if they call 911 during an emergency. A pre-existing university procedure reduces the fear of academic discipline for those in need of assistance.
Those interested in learning more about the university’s Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan procedures can visit the Office for Student Conflict Resolution website.
“Our concern always is, first and foremost, the well-being of our students and other campus community members,” Christensen said. “We don’t punish people who do the right thing by calling 911 when someone needs medical or police assistance. Please call us when you or a friend needs any kind of help.”
Police are also encouraging students who choose to consume alcohol to do so responsibly. For a lot of students, college is the first time that they experiment with alcohol or experience peer pressure to drink.
The University of Illinois Police Department provides alcohol safety classes and other information so that if students choose to consume alcohol during their free time, then they are encouraged to do so in a way that is safe, healthy and responsible. But many times, alcohol is used to excess – and that can lead to other problems like pedestrian and traffic issues, fights, robberies, sexual assault and other violence.
“Police attempt to discourage these types of crimes by stepping up enforcement on alcohol-related issues,” said Officer Ryan Snow, a certified Drug Recognition Expert. “Police also have unfortunately seen accidents related to alcohol that have deadly consequences. Falls, pedestrian-versus-vehicle accidents and extreme alcohol poisoning are a few things that officers have dealt with during my time on patrol.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 1,825 college students die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor vehicle crashes. Nearly 700,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and 1 in 4 college students report experiencing academic consequences from alcohol misuse.
University of Illinois Police have options when they stop someone who is suspected to be underage and abusing alcohol – they can make an arrest or write a ticket, or they can refer the matter to student discipline, thereby keeping it out of the criminal justice system. They very often choose the latter.
Police write tickets under the laws of the cities of Champaign and Urbana, and so the department receives no revenue from fines.
“In general, most officers tend to address behavior. If the behavior they see is in some way dangerous to either the person performing the act or others around them, enforcement in some fashion is needed,” Snow said. “I have adopted the same process for this as many others around me have by saying to people, ‘If you don’t bring attention to yourself by being a general public nuisance, you have a good chance of just getting a wave from me.’”
And, of course, if the student or someone they know is in need of medical assistance, getting the help they need will be the officer’s first priority.
Otherwise, as long as students are enjoying themselves in a way that is respectful of each other and the campus, they usually will not be approached by officers for their behavior.
“We don’t randomly pick people on the street to stop,” Snow said. “We address behavior and that usually means behavior that is dangerous or destructive in some way.”