I know that most VCU students--really most college students in general--do not pay attention to their local politics.

Well, I'd like to enlighten them on something that is happening in RVA City Council ... something all VCU students should be aware of (THREAD)
1/ We're talking about Ordinance # 2020-117 ... Which would continue and expand an agreement between RPD and VCU that allows the school's police force to use RPD's records management system.

It was first introduced on May 11, 2020, by Mayor @LevarStoney
2/ It has since bounced around council for several months. The last motion was made on Jan 11, 2021, where it was tabled for an upcoming subcommittee meeting on Feb 8.

You can read the whole bill by clicking the link below:
3/ Now, some important context:

-VCU has the largest campus police force in VA
-VCUPD has assisted RPD and VSPD with crowd control at protests
-VCU is seeking leads on the $100,000 of windows broken at protests

These are all facts that have been verified publicly.
I'd like to also state that, while the information presented below may seem authoritative, a lot of this is a guessing game because the bill is written so vaguely. There's only so much a person can actually understand about this ordinance.

So, do your own research.
4/ Now then, what does this ordinance do exactly?

In essence, RPD would be granting VCUPD continued access to its database that stores "criminal justice information and other records of information".

Here is some background:
5/ The scope of what that the "information" includes is somewhat unclear. Furthermore, there is a lot of grey area as to what kinds of information each party would have access to.

It's not unusual for police depts. to share data, but they often do not use the same exact system.
6/ One of the big issues with this ordinance is that RPD would be able to skirt around FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) by virtue of some interesting technicalities.
Take this, for example: Article 3 sec. B

To put it simply, RPD technically has the right to deny a FOIA request submitted to VCU and vice-versa. Not good.

Read this passage carefully, and think of all the ways this could be abused when both parties are intertwined.
7/ But, here's the real kicker.

Through this system, RPD would be able to access information on VCU students that may otherwise be protected under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).
Read this clause over and over again, doing so carefully.

It sounds like RPD is saying "we won't touch HIPAA or FERPA records, and if we accidentally do, we're really sorry"...........right?

Wrong. There is tons of room for technicalities here.
8/ To understand this, you have to understand the exemptions law enforcement already has when it comes to HIPAA and FERPA. In this particular case though, VCU is a public college and RPD is a government entity, so the agreement could allow for tons of gray areas.
In short:

Your school has certain exemptions to HIPAA/FERPA that law enforcement does not, and vice-versa. But, what happens when those parties enter into a contractual agreement pertaining to how they can share records in a more integrated way?
9/ Starting with HIPAA, law enforcement is basically exempt from the act's privacy rule altogether, albeit with some caveats.

Here is a link that explains the exemptions of law enforcement from HIPAA privacy rules: hhs.gov/hipaa/for-prof…
10/ As for FERPA, there are two avenues of concern.

One is any legal infractions a VCU student may have with VCUPD, which RPD would be able to see regardless of an agreement. This includes minor infractions, like drinking underage.
The other concern is your actual education records, but that's pretty complicated stuff. I'll link to a PDF that goes over all FERPA privacy exemption rules, but below are some highlights.
(PDF: studentprivacy.ed.gov/sites/default/…)
A quick aside to provide some food for thought and plug the work of two good friends.

While this article pertains to K-12, the concept of suspension is rather germane with that of academic probation at colleges. Think back to those minor infractions.
9/ And then, there's the question of how much this will cost.

That isn't an easy question to answer, because both VCU and RPD will feel the brunt of it, and those figures currently do not have an estimated cost.
10/ The only figure that does have a cost attached to it is the annual fee VCU will pay to continue using the system:

$37,699.00 or 8% of the system's annual cost.

That means the city pays over $470,000 every year to run a program that can apparently run on an i3 processor.
11/ All this is to say that VCU is likely going to continue this agreement, and the ones who will be both financially and personally affected by it are the students and faculty, many of whom have been harmed, harassed, or intimidated by RPD and VCUPD at protests for BLM.
12/ Look, if you agree with this bill, that's your opinion and I can't change it. But, I encourage you all to read this bill for yourself and form your own opinion.

After how I've seen the city and VCU spend their money over the past year, I simply cannot support this bill.
13/ And, if you don't like what you see, take action. There is still time to do something about it.

The number one thing you can do is call, email or DM your councilperson, and ask them to vote no on ORD 2020-117. If they refuse your request, ask them why they want to vote yes.
Remember, they are not federal senators; they will probably write back, so hold a dialogue if you get the chance to.

If you are unsure what district you live in, you can use the RVA Real Estate Assessor's web portal to search your address and find out.
Alright, now get outta here, ya rascals!

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