Senate Bill 322 failed to pass the Georgia legislative session in 2016. As a result, law enforcement at educational institutions continue to investigate allegations of rape internally.
The bill aimed to mandate law enforcement with arrest powers at educational institutions, to report allegations of rape to local law enforcement agencies and handover all information and evidence to cooperate with local authorities. However, the legislative session adjourned on March 24, and the bill did not come to fruition.
“Despite the bill, UWG Police and the Carrollton Police Department have always been cooperative in investigating cases independently,” said Thomas Mackel, Chief of Police at UWG.
The debated legislation intended to promote justice for victims of rape and to ensure that their right to prosecute an individual was not ignored or declined. The issue of universities and colleges interfering with investigations was a key concern.
“We’ve never had that issue here,” said Mackel. “If we get an assault case, no one interferes with us or our investigations.”
Even though the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management is informed of reported rape allegations, they do not object if the victim chooses to prosecute a suspected individual. UWG Police Department views it from the law enforcement perspective while Student Affairs considers it a disciplinary action.
“Criminal investigation of rape cases are handled independently by the police department,” said Mackel. “We work with the victim and tell them what is confirmed and can be proven. We always allow them to say whether or not they wish to prosecute the suspect.”
According to Mackel, the decision to prosecute a suspect is up to the victim, since he or she have to relive the memories and traumas at the witness stand and face the media who may sensationalize the news.
“We are more concerned with what the victim wants,” he said . “The trial process can be emotionally very damaging, and a lot of times, people get wrapped up in the story and forget the victim.”
The focus of the bill was to ensure universities did not hide any key evidence or information in order to save themselves from negative publicity.
“There have been schools that do not investigate rapes as a criminal offence, and this can be devastating for victims,” said Mackel .
Although the bill did not pass as legislation, UWG students will continue to be served fairly and will not be denied of their rights. Currently, there are three full-time investigators at UWG. The system allows the victims to choose if they want to handle the case anonymously or not.