Following the Champion tragedy, why was FAMUPD so slow to follow through on a new hazing report?

March 29, 2012

By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

The latest news from Tallahassee — that two FAMU faculty members were investigated in connection with a hazing incident in 2010 — is a true bombshell. USA Today reports:

A Tallahassee Police Department investigative report, released Wednesday, tells of 14 Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity pledges who gathered at the off-campus home of a faculty member and were subjected to paddling and punishment related to initiation rituals…

An unnamed student, who made the original complaint two days after Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion was killed in November in an incident being investigated as a hazing-related homicide, described events from the spring of 2010.

“He further stated that he remembers receiving anywhere from 20-25 ‘licks’ across his buttocks with the paddle,” the police report said.

The police incident report lists Diron Holloway and Anthony Simons — both employed by Florida A&M, according to the police report — as suspects in the hazing investigation.

The full TPD report, which is definitely worth a read, goes on to state that no charges will be filed in the case, in large part because the two-year statute of limitations may have passed since the events in question. But the report hardly represents a great vindication of FAMU on the questions of whether anything happened in the first place, whether the faculty members were indeed involved in some way, and how the organization responded.

After the report was released on Wednesday, FAMU announced that it is putting the two profs mentioned therein on administrative leave.

The alleged complicity of faculty in hazing has grabbed most of the headlines in news coverage of the TPD report so far, which makes sense. But I think there are a few other details hiding between the lines that we shouldn’t overlook.

Chief among them is TPD’s not-so-implicit criticism of FAMU campus police for being slow to pass along the incident. According to the report, these particular hazing allegations came to FAMUPD’s attention on Nov. 21 — just a few days after Robert Champion’s death. FAMUPD determined they would have to pass them along to TPD because the alleged incident took place off-campus.

But then they never did. TPD says it never heard about the incident until Jan. 20, when it learned of the allegations from the media. Then TPD called FAMUPD — not the other way around — to ask about it.

Then one of the key witnesses says he never got a call from FAMUPD until a few days after that, when the department got wind that the Tallahassee Democrat was working on a story about hazing at FAMU.

What’s really breathtaking about all this lollygagging is that it took place after Robert Champion died, when everyone on campus should’ve been on extra high alert about the risks of hazing. Especially the police.

Amazing.

By the way, one final thought: If you’re one of those Rattlers who’s been huffy about media coverage of hazing at FAMU, this is great evidence why you should chill out. Media coverage sometimes has a way of getting necessary things done when you’re dealing with intransigent and/or plainly dumb-as-bricks bureaucrats. If it weren’t for media coverage, that original hazing report would probably still be collecting dust on someone’s desk at FAMUPD, and the faculty members wouldn’t be under any scrutiny at all, even though certain of their students and colleagues had accused them of hazing.

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