New law: Open records applies to private campus police

Attorney: ‘No bearing on UIW wrongful death lawsuit'

SAN ANTONIO – Legislation bound for Gov. Greg Abbott's signature will require private campuses' police to release certain records to the public.

What began as Senate Bill 308 will designate private college police as governmental agencies, subject to laws governing open records.

"It's extremely specific as to public information and that's all it does. It does not provide them governmental immunity or any form of governmental protections at all," said Jorge Herrera, the attorney representing the family of Cameron Redus in their wrongful death lawsuit against the University of the Incarnate Word.

The UIW student had a fatal encounter with now former UIW officer Chris Carter during a traffic stop in December 2013.

However, Herrera said the new law will have "absolutely no bearing whatsoever in the litigation other than the fact we can get all the information they collected at the scene."

In response, a UIW spokeswoman wrote in a statement, "UIW follows Texas law, and would abide by any requirements for our police department to comply with public information laws." 

The statement concludes by saying, "The legislation will help clarify that private university police departments authorized and approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, qualify as governmental units subject to the same immunities that public university police departments receive."

Herrera said he disagrees, having argued in court that UIW is a private university, not a governmental entity.

"They're not the University of Texas," he said, Herrera's alma mater.

The new law came about after another 2013 incident in Houston where Rice University police allegedly used their batons to beat a suspected bicycle thief, but then refused to release the report.

Herrera said the legislation now will allow for transparency by those private campus police agencies.

The following is the full statement from Debra Del Toro, UIW spokeswoman:

The University follows Texas law, and would abide by any requirements for our police department to comply with public information laws, which currently UIW is not subject to.

Public entities are specifically staffed to respond to requests under the Texas Public Information Act, whereas private entities, not subject to the statute, do not maintain such a staff. 

This proposed legislation will help clarify that private university police departments authorized and approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement qualify as governmental units subject to the same immunities that public university police departments receive. 


About the Author:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.