Many Creighton students have experienced the fear that strikes when they hear a sharp knock at their door, but not all know what happens after the door is opened.
Room searches are something that resi- dential life and Public Safety typically deal with on a weekly basis at Creighton.
Kristen Schuling, director of the Department of Residential Life, said the residential life staff is trained in detecting illicit materials or actions with sight, sound and smell.
Schuling said that the way alcohol-related incidents are handled differs from the way drug incidents are handled.
For alcohol-related incidents, Schuling said the resident adviser will typically knock on a suspected student’s door, ask them to present any alcohol in the room and pour it down the sink. The students involved will then be written up.
However, if an RA suspects marijuana or other drug use in a student’s room, the RA will contact the resident director on duty, Shuling said. The RD will then call Public Safety.
“[The RA’s] call the resident director on duty and provide information. The res- ident director will show up with Public Safety, who then confirms that ‘yes, this is a smell that is coming from this location,’” Schuling said.
“The way I look at room searches is, we’re only there if we need to be there,” Assistant Vice President of Public Safety Michael Reiner said. “We’re not out looking for trouble. We’re not out looking to get students in trouble.”
Schuling said that in order for Public Safety or the RD to get access to a stu- dent’s room to conduct a search, Tanya Winegard, vice provost for Student Life, has to give authorization either from herself or from a designee. For Winegard, this means calls at all hours of the night.
Once given authorization to a student’s room, the door is knocked upon and the RD will explain the procedures of a room search while Public Safety searches the room.
“We give them a chance to come clean with whatever they have,” Reiner said.
Reiner said that the Public Safety officer will then continue with the search, and depending on the substances or paraphernalia found, either Public Safety or resi- dential life will confiscate the materials.
Reiner said that students can look in the Student Handbook for the “Confiscation/ Destruction Matrix,” which he helped develop with Desiree Nownes, senior director of Community Standards and Wellbeing, to determine what items will be confiscated, where they go and what happens to them.
“We need students to understand their rights and responsibilities,” Nownes said.
“Typically, in room searches we find a variety of things,” Schuling said.
Schuling said items such as beer steins or shot glasses, which are not inherently illegal but that go against the residence hall code of conduct, will be taken by residential life.
Any other paraphernalia, such as pipes or bongs, will be taken by Public Safety, along with any illicit drugs.
Reiner said students can request that residential life or Public Safety not destroy or dispose of any paraphernalia if they claim, for example, that the item has sen- timental value and it has not been used for illegal purposes.
Reiner said that there is a bit of a “gray area” with drug paraphernalia such as vapes or pipes.
“They could be used for legitimate, legal reasons, but they’re not supposed to be do- ing it in the res hall,” said Reiner.
But, Reiner said, if it’s obvious that the drug paraphernalia found has been used with illegal substances then “we’re taking it, and it will be destroyed.”
The respective departments will hold onto any items that are not destroyed un- til the student can take them off campus.
If Public Safety discovers something that constitutes a felony during a room search, the Omaha Police Department will then be called to the Public Safety building.
Public Safety will take pictures and doc- ument what the substance is and where it was found.
The responding OPD officer will talk with the students involved and use discretion to determine whether the student will be arrested or be given a citation.
“We don’t attempt to influence that. That’s completely within the police officer’s discretion,” Reiner said.
Reiner said that the substances most commonly found with Creighton students that can result in an arrest are THC wax and oil or Adderall that is being distributed or is possessed by someone without a prescription.
Any felony substances are subsequently handed over to OPD — this may also in- clude any weapons that were found.
However, any misdemeanors are handled by Public Safety.
“Anything misdemeanor, for alcohol or drugs, we will handle it internally,” Reiner said. “We will just destroy the parapher- nalia or the actual drugs and handle it through Community Standards and Well- being.”
Reiner said that misdemeanor quantities of marijuana are confiscated and taken to the Public Safety building. The sub- stance is disposed of by flushing it down the toilet with two officers present.
Paraphernalia, such as pipes or bongs, that have been designated for destruction will be smashed and thrown away.
Special Agent in Charge Richard Salter of the Drug Enforcement Administration Omaha Division said that while the DEA does not typically get involved with minor drug incidents such as those that might occur at Creighton, there is a process that the agency has of disposing of drugs.
Salter said any drugs that the DEA seizes will be sent to the nearest regional laboratory, which for Omaha, he said, is Chicago.
The laboratory then tests the drugs and will hold onto them if they are needed for court. Finally, the drugs will be disposed of in an incinerator.
Salter said that while the DEA has a dif- ferent destruction policy than Public Safety, the destruction is less important than the documentation.
“It’s not really the destruction policy that’s important. It’s the chain of custody process that’s important,” Salter said.
“It matters that it gets destroyed, and it gets documented.”
Reiner said any items that have yet to be disposed of or handed over to the proper party are held in a secure room in the Public Safety building.
“DPS securely stores evidence in a locked cabinet within a room that employs electronic access control and video surveillance to maintain chain of custody,” Reiner said.
Schuling said that after a room search, both Public Safety and residential life will write their own reports which will be sub- mitted to the Office of Community Standards and Wellbeing.
Nownes said that her office will then contact the students involved in the incident and conduct a hearing to determine the outcomes and possible sanctions.
“We give them a chance to talk about their incident from their perspective,” Nownes said.
Students who dispute the reports made against them can request a hearing from the University Committee on Student Discipline.
The committee will then determine the outcomes for the students involved.
“We have to make sure that our community is safe and healthy and students are making positive choices for themselves and their lives,” said Nownes.
“We’re just helping enforce the rules,” Reiner said. “We were all once [19-20] as well, and we know what happens.”