College and the cops, Part II; Radnor strikes back

Melissa Leach

On Feb. 11, Lieutenant Thomas Flannery of the Radnor police department agreed to convene for a telephone interview in an effort to prove that police work in Radnor involves more than shiny badges, red and blue flashing lights and vendettas against Villanova students. While the originality Flannery’s comments was limited by his exposure to the previous article in this series, he was able to provide insight into the relationship between college students and the cops from the rarely voiced police perspective.

Flannery, who has served 22 years as a Radnor police officer, expressed an understanding of Villanova students’ frustration with the police, but stated that the Radnor force’s actions are not driven by a desire to punish ‘Nova students. “I’m sure that they view us as officious and they think that we’re picking on them. However, we don’t say ‘Oh, this is a Villanova house – we’re going to cite all of you.’ If someone causes a disturbance, we will cite them, regardless of who they are.”

Flannery stated that police often do not find out which school the student attends until after the citation and attributed the seemingly high incidence of Villanova violations to the size of the University’s student body. He believes that because Villanova is the largest institution in the area, it would naturally have a higher concentration of students living in the surrounding suburbs and therefore a larger number of police interactions.

Flannery also responded specifically to sophomore Tim Lawson and junior Marissa Bataille’s comments. He disagreed with Lawson’s statement regarding Villanovans’ small influence in surrounding neighborhoods stating, “Students do sometimes affect the neighborhoods in which they live. On a Wednesday night, for example, if students have 40-50 people in their house and are making noise, they are causing a disturbance. If they live next to families with working individuals and sleeping children and there is a complaint, we will have to cite them.”

He also differed with Bataille’s opinion that the threat of arrest is a sufficient deterrent. Flannery referred to Pennsylvania’s underage drinking policies and stated that disturbances are often coming from “the same houses all of the time.”

According to Pennsylvania law, students who are under 21 who attempt to buy beer or other alcohol, successfully purchase these alcoholic beverages, transport alcoholic beverages or consume any alcohol can be arrested and cited.

In addition, Pennsylvania’s zero tolerance policy states that “it is illegal to operate any vehicle including a bike, boat, horse or electric wheelchair while under the influence of alcohol to a degree that the person is incapable of safe driving. Under 21 that limit is .02 blood alcohol content – often reached after one 12 ounce beer – and over 21 the limit is .08. A minor with up to .02 BAC will be fined $100, however, not cited for DUI.”

Flannery delineated the system through which fines are determined and emphasized that the dollar amount of fines is not determined by the police force.

According to Flannery, the magistrates of Delaware County and Radnor Township determine this figure, taking into account the cost of certified mail to send out the tickets, paperwork and court costs, among other things. Drinking violations carry a “floating fine” ranging from $25-$300, while traffic violations average $100 a ticket.

Flannery said that the police receive a very small amount of this money, and estimated that $12 of every traffic violation ends up in the Township’s treasury. In order to further debunk the myth that citations are merely a money-making endeavor, Flannery emphasized that quotas defining a specific number of citations that each officer needs to serve are illegal, and that the officers are simply “expected to do their job.”

While the Radnor police force defines this job as “serving the best interests of all [their] residents by providing and maintaining a secure environment,” for some Villanova students this position includes breaking up parties, bar raids, and drinking citations.

Flannery, however, believes that a solution to this dilemma is in clear view and recommends that Villanova students seeking to stay out of trouble with the law follow the rule of common courtesy: “You should treat people the way that you would like to be treated, or the way that you would like your parents to be treated. Remember the nature of community life; you are not living in a dorm and therefore you are dealing with full-time residents.”

While this rationale is undeniable logical, will it hold true on a Friday or Saturday night? The unfortunate answer is that only time will tell.