After 'Good Sam,' arrests prompt student questions

by Jesse Silberberg | 11/9/06 6:00am

Although the Good Samaritan Policy prevents certain alcohol policy violations from resulting in College discipline, "Good Sam" calls often result in arrests for students under the age of 21. The Good Sam also involves Hanover Police, which monitors Safety and Security's radio frequency for Good Sam calls.

When Safety and Security receives a Good Sam call, the dispatcher relays the call over the radio not as a Good Sam, but rather as a medical emergency. The Office of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs later considers whether a Good Sam applies.

Medical safety is the main determinant for whether or not an individual Safety and Security officer takes a student to Dick's House or calls for an ambulance, with the latter scenario resulting in an arrest.

College Proctor Harry Kinne described the set of guidelines he and other Safety and Security officers use to determine whether or not an ambulance should be called.

He said that if a student is passed out or in a position where Safety and Security cannot transport them to Dick's House, officers will call an ambulance. If the student can walk to the Safety and Security van on his or her own, Dick's House is the more likely scenario.

The discretion of individual officers also plays a role in determining the need for an ambulance.

"Some of [the decision] is officers' experience in seeing how intoxicated someone is," Kinne said on behalf of officers, who are not permitted to speak to the press.

Arrests result from an ambulance call because Hanover Police are required by policy to accompany the vehicle.

"The most important thing is we are responding because of concern for a student's safety," Kinne said. He pointed out that students greatly outnumber Safety and Security officers and aid the department by using the Good Samaritan policy.

"It's really a huge benefit to us in helping to provide safety for the students," Kinne said.

Hanover Police also monitors Safety and Security's radio frequency, Hanover Police Chief Nicholas Giaccone said, so that it can be prepared to assist the College when requested. Giaccone said the Police has yet to respond to emergencies on its own.

"Anyone can monitor the radio frequencies," Giaccone said, noting that it is the dispatcher and not individual officers who listens to Safety and Security's radio band.

Kinne noted that the radio's frequency is not published, but that it is not difficult to obtain. He said that Safety and Security desires to communicate with Hanover Police, and that, despite plans to switch from a public to a private frequency, Dartmouth would still grant Hanover Police access. The move to a private frequency would help streamline intra-College communication.

Kinne said that he supported the current interaction between Hanover and Safety and Security as it pertains to the Good Samaritan Policy.

"Hanover Police are the police agency for Hanover and for Dartmouth. Certainly over the course of their duties if they come by and see a situation they may stop to assist, or make an inquiry," Kinne said. "As part of the job of policing in Hanover, they're sworn to uphold the law so they don't have a choice if they see you in violation of the law."

At Dick's House, the procedure for determining a course of action has pre-set parameters.

"It's driven by blood alcohol levels," Director of the Health Service John Turco said. "If a student's BAC is 0.30 or greater, the student would automatically be sent to the emergency room. There is a higher risk of stopping breathing and needing to be intubated."

The ability to intubate is the one major difference between the capabilities of Dick's House and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Turco estimated that about one out of 10 students who violate the alcohol policy end up in DHMC. According to Kinne, the numbers are higher for Good Sam beneficiaries.

"From Jan. 1, 2006 to today we have 82 reports where someone called in and requested a Good Sam. There were 24 arrests -- almost all are ambulance calls or combative person -- in these cases," Kinne said.

Individuals who are hostile with Safety and Security officers or nurses at Dick's House also involve the police, whom are called to provide assistance and protection. If these offenses are perpetrated while a student is intoxicated, he or she does not benefit from the Good Samaritan policy.

Frank Glaser '08, one of eight students on the committee to overhaul the Good Samaritan Policy during Spring term 2005, said he feels that the Dartmouth community needs to be better educated about the policy. The changes that were implemented in fall 2005 allow for an unlimited number of Good Sam calls in a student's career.

A female senior who wished to remain anonymous because of the nature of the Good Samaritan Policy echoed Glaser's desire for education. She did not become aware of Good Sam's ramifications, including police involvement, until after her experience.

Although she was not arrested due to a lower level of intoxication, she was unhappy that she had to meet with her class dean, pay $200 for staying the night at Dick's House and take an alcohol class.

"My big fear now is that you can get 'Good Sammed' and still get arrested," she said. "I just wished that the student body understood that there are still ramifications."

Despite this perception, she still supports the policy overall.

"It's definitely a good policy," she said. "It's great for the kids that really need help and are really sick."

A male junior who experienced the Good Samaritan process this summer was brought to DHMC and arrested after Safety and Security was contacted. Wishing to remain anonymous, he said that he felt that in his experience "the benefit of the policy was very minor."

Director of Undergraduate Judicial Affairs April Thompson said the College does not have any responsibility for negative legal consequences.

"The college process is completely separate from the legal system. We can't control or monitor or expect [Hanover Police] to do something just because we changed policy," Thompson said.

If a student is a Good Samaritan beneficiary, the UJA sends a letter to the student that includes the following passage: "Students who seek assistance are offered the option to avoid disciplinary consequences by addressing health concerns. In order for me to determine whether or not the Good Samaritan exemption applies in your situation, you need to meet with your class dean to discuss the circumstances."

For students who expect there to be no consequences from the Good Samaritan, a forced meeting with a dean can be alarming, according to the senior female interviewed. Thompson said that as long as students complete educational and other requirements, they can bypass College discipline.

"If you go the health route, you maybe have to go to counseling, or maybe a group session, but then you have no disciplinary record at all, as long as you comply with the health requirements," Thompson said, noting that a lack of completion could void the Good Samaritan policy.

Glaser said he hopes the next step is for the College to work with Hanover Police when the Good Samaritan Policy applies.

"That's a very difficult route -- on the legislative level it's a whole different ballgame," he said.