Six former and current Arizona State University police employees have filed a lawsuit accusing the university of falsifying crime statistics and retaliating against employees who objected.
In the lawsuit, filed this month in Maricopa County Superior Court, four police officers and two police aides, one of whom still is on staff at ASU, allege that they were directed to massage crime numbers and change crime classifications “to make ASU appear safer.”
They argue the deception was egregious enough to violate the Clery Act, a 1990 law that requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to report crime statistics.
The employees in the suit also accuse ASU of violating their First Amendment rights by punishing those who spoke out about the issue by subjecting them to unfounded internal investigations or forcing them into retirement.
The lawsuit claims ASU officials interrogated and threatened to fire one employee, Bernard Linser, “without any evidence of wrongdoing.”
In another case, the university launched an investigation into one former employee, Charles Cornfield, for example, because he contributed a blog challenging the way the ASU police department was being run, according to court documents. He claims he was forced into retirement.
The blog in question, called The Integrity Report, claims in its "about us" section to "shine the light of integrity onto the ASU Police Department, so those that bring dishonor to an honorable profession may be held liable." It is authored by "an anonymous coalition of people" associated with the ASU PD, including former and current employees.
The Integrity Report discusses, among other things, how understaffing and improper allocation of resources may be preventing ASU police from preventing and prosecuting crimes such as sexual assault. It also recounts several instances when whistleblowers believed officials misrepresented a situation to the media.
“Even if we had enough staffing for patrol,” a blogger wrote, officers “would still be conducting continuous traffic stops on Tempe city streets far from the student populations on campus,” adding that ASU police have “nobody watching the hen house” and “create the opportunity for crime on an unpatrolled campus.”
Mark Johnson, senior director for media relations at ASU, said the university has not yet received official notice of the lawsuit.
"Typically we do not comment on pending litigation," he said. "Regardless of how unsubstantiated, malicious or meritless it may be.”