Hanover Police helps to maintain vigil in Hanover
Hanover Police maintained vigilant control over students at football games this fall, but the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union claims police removal and arrest of students during intercollegiate football games is illegal.
The NHCLU said Hanover Police are also acting improperly by arresting and fining students who rush the field and that field rushing should be handled as a College matter.
Imbibing at College football games
The debate surrounding the Hanover Police's jurisdiction over students' imbibing at football games centers on one's definition of "interscholastic." Police claim the term applies to colleges, but the NHCLU claims it only applies to high schools.
Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone said Hanover Police's searching the football stands are enforcing state statute 571-C:2, which prohibits intoxicating beverages at interscholastic athletic contests.
But Claire Ebel, executive director of the NHCLU, said the law is "absolutely inapplicable to any athletic event that occurs at Dartmouth College."
Ebel said there is a difference between interscholastic and intercollegiate athletic contests.
The statue "refers to interscholastic athletic events, not intercollegiate athletic events," she said. "It is applicable to high school sports and has nothing to do with Dartmouth."
Ebel said intercollegiate and intramural events at Dartmouth could not be enforced under the statute.
But Giaccone said there is no difference between a college and high school sporting event.
"The dictionary definition does not differentiate between colleges and high schools when it says interscholastic," he said.
Ebel said although the dictionary does not state the difference between interscholastic and intercollegiate, the word of the law makes a distinction.
"The unfortunate thing is that [Hanover Police's] hearts are probably in the right place," she said. "But you don't shred the Bill of Rights to achieve that goal. The law refers to secondary schools."
Giaccone said although the police can arrest students for possession of alcohol, the department patrols football games under the auspices of the College.
"It is also a rule of the College itself regardless of ... whether it is founded in state law," he said.
Giaccone said the College enforces a no-alcohol policy in the stadium.
The College pays the police department approximately $1,900 per football game to monitor the situation, Giaccone said.
Giaccone said anyone younger than 21-years-old would be arrested for possession of alcohol and anyone 21-years-old or older would be escorted from the stadium.
"We have an issue to determine whether or not there is enough probably cause to determine if the student is carrying ... contraband," he said.
Giaccone said the police are empowered to search students based on articulable suspicion where "the officer can articulate based on his observation facts or situations based on his senses ... where he believes someone may be committing a crime -- that is, possession of an alcoholic beverage at a scholastic event."
But Ebel said any no-alcohol policy must be enforced and patrolled by the school, not by the police. She added that the police cannot just ask a student to show them their beverages.
"It is extremely troubling for municipal police officers to enter private property and attempt a warrantless search of a private citizen," she said. "Those are not the tactics of proper police procedure in a democracy. There still should [be] reasonable individualized suspicion."
A case study
During this year's Homecoming football game, Keith Broughton '97, a tuba player in the Dartmouth Marching Band, was forced to leave the game during the third quarter after officers became suspicious that he held alcohol in his possession.
"I remember five officers, total, pressuring me to show them what was in my bag," Broughton told The Dartmouth in October.
Broughton said when he refused to open his bag "one of the officers threatened to arrest me with trespassing if I didn't leave the stands" immediately.
When the Hanover Police discovered that Broughton is 21, he was allowed to leave and asked not to reenter the stadium.
Ebel said the police acted illegally by enforcing an invalid statute when they asked to search the tuba and forced him to leave the stadium.
"What you describe is an individual who was not being disruptive -- an individual who was not a danger to himself and those around him -- and given his behavior, the insistence of a warrantless search by the police is extremely questionable," she said.
"I am very troubled by warrantless searches under any circumstances," Ebel added. "To give the police the power to search individuals, persons or their properties without at least an individualized suspicion is a very frightening thing and ought to be for any American citizen."
Ebel said she encouraged Broughton and any student "who was harassed or interfered with by the Hanover Police" to contact the NHCLU.
"I will ask an attorney to review what happened there and we will see if we can keep it from happening in the future," she said.
Field rushing and bonfire duties
Ebel also said the police are acting improperly when students rush the field. But Giaccone said the police are merely preventing persons from going into an area where they are not licensed or privileged to enter.
"They cannot be arrested and fined," she said. "They have to be charged with breaking the law if it is not criminal trespass. There is no state statute saying rushing the field is a criminal trespass," she said.
Last year, students who rushed the field were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing as a violation, not a crime.
"If [rushing the field] is not criminal trespass, I would be very interested to learn which statute has been violated by this action by individuals in a private setting acting in what has been traditional action at Dartmouth," she said.
Ebel said "any student who has been criminally charged with this offense should first go to the College administration and register a vigorous protest about the interference of the town police in what should be a campus matter and secondly call me."
In addition to patrols during football games, the College hires the Hanover Police to maintain order during Dartmouth Night.
The police department was paid about $2,800 this fall to patrol the bonfire.
The Hanover Police supplements its police force with officers from other local departments, Giaccone said. Other departments include Enfield, Lebanon and Canaan.
"We don't have enough full-time officers to cover these events," Giaccone said.
The officers are necessary for crowd control during the bonfire and afterwards the extra officers are sent home, Giaccone said.
Only 19 officers patrolled the bonfire this fall of which six were from outside Hanover, Giaccone said.
"That night there may have been 15,000 people," he said.
About 15 officers patrol the football games.