Students Weigh in on Their Relationship with the GPD
By Ella Prieto, Assistant News Editor
Tensions between colleges and local police departments have always existed, but recently those tensions have been exacerbated. Inside Higher Ed, a news source that focuses on education, has documented how students from many colleges, such as Northwestern University, Columbia University and New York University, have pushed for their institutions to cut ties with their local police departments.
At Gettysburg College, many students are upset with the current relationship the College has with the Gettysburg Police Department (GPD).
“[Gettysburg] police have certainly been helpful to the school for our safety, and they have a very rapid response, but the negative encounters with certain officers are terrible,” said Blake Dudley ’23. “There’s a reason why everyone knows one officer’s name in particular, it’s not because he’s a good cop but rather the epitome of what people hold issues with policing in America. Dealing with college students and our antics must be frustrating, but they should not excuse the level of hostility that comes across in some cases.”
One officer, in particular, is most commonly mentioned by students, as they feel that he is overly aggressive in his meetings and tends to target college students.
Ben Sarnitsky ’26 commented on how this officer treated him and his friends differently due to their race and ethnicity.
“[He] came to my room and gave me a citation, but was very hostile toward my friends who are Asian and Hispanic. He did not ask me and my other friend (both white) any additional questions at all regarding the situation,” said Sarnitsky.
Sarnitsky and this officer were involved in a second situation when Sarniksy called an ambulance for a friend. During the second meeting, Sarniksy found him once again, disturbing.
“When the police arrived, the first thing [he] said was, ‘Hey, I remember you. Did you get your citation yet?’ I would usually find that remark funny or maybe just annoying, but because of my friend’s state, I found it deeply disturbing,” explained Sarnitsky. “[This officer] shows an extreme lack of empathy for all people and acts very hostile toward ethnic and racial minorities.”
An anonymous source had similar comments about this officer, saying “[He uses] aggressive behavior and language, only targeting me with questions when I was the only international person in the group. Showed lack of professionalism and good character, and everyone around noticed that.”
Ilana Subramanya ’24 also had a negative experience with a GPD officer when leaving a bar with her friends.
“We were not stumbling or anything [when leaving], we had our arms linked together because it was 10 degrees outside. A police car comes out of nowhere, and a police officer comes up, shines the flashlight in our faces, and starts aggressively questioning my friend who was in the middle of us,” she stated. “Once he realized we were not out of control drunk and we are not underaged he stormed back into his car, slammed the door, and drove off incredibly fast in a haste. He clearly was just looking for people to stop and hassle, and became extremely rude and unprofessional when he realized we were not doing anything wrong.”
When asked about the negative views students held for some officers, Police Chief Robert Glenny said, “I can’t really comment on that issue. I can say that we are aware of the perception of a couple of other officers and we watch that.”
Additionally, Glenny mentioned that there have been no formal complaints against any officers since Aug. 2022.
Looking at the relationship between the GPD and Gettysburg College’s students, Glenny felt that it is “generally good.”
“Relationships can always improve…And I think there’s sometimes some miscommunication between the entire campus community, so it could use some improvement. I don’t think it’s bad, [but] I would like to see it be more transparent both ways, within reason,” said Glenny.
Gettysburg Borough Mayor Rita Frealing, who has oversight of the GPD, had similar comments to Glenny.
“I think since I’ve taken the office, the relationship is good, from what I see….But even with good relationships, there’s always room for improvement. And that’s why I’m holding office hours on campus and I have an open door policy that the students can approach me because according to state law, I have oversight of the police department. So I want that relationship to be good,” said Frealing.
She also mentioned that she is working with Glenny to improve the relationship by “..listening and getting feedback and we’re getting involved in days like today [Coffee with Campus Safety] to come out and just have a good, solid relationship to make sure that the students know they’re part of the Gettysburg community and that public safety is at their call and we’re here to protect and serve and listen to their issues.”
Executive Director of Campus Safety Alex Wiltz discussed the GPD’s relationship specifically with Campus Safety, commenting “In general Campus Safety has a positive partnership with the Gettysburg Police. If there are concerns, Chief Glenny and I discuss them and come to a resolution.”
Student Patrol Officer and newly elected Senate Inclusion Officer Abby Ruggiero ’26 expanded upon the GDP-Campus Safety relationship.
She explained that Campus Safety interacts with the GPD out of necessity, stating “Campus Safety contacts the police only when we legally have to. In certain situations, for example, assaults of any kind, we have to contact the Gettysburg Police Department and they take over the situation. We try to involve them as little as possible but they have more power than Campus Safety since they are Law Enforcement.”
In terms of whether the relationship is beneficial or not, she said “I cannot really comment on whether or not their presence on campus is a good or bad thing [but] I have heard a lot of students complain about a specific officer..”
The GPD has been called to help the College with security issues in the past and has paid for those services. Wiltz stated “In September we had a request from numerous students for an added layer of protection from the police. GPD was hired to provide an officer to patrol the streets around campus for approximately 2 weeks. The total for this was just under $5,000.”
Some students are hopeful for the relationship with the GPD to turn positive in the coming semesters.
President-elect of the Student Senate and current Co-Chair of the College Life Advisory Committee (CLAC) Andrew Lemon ’24 said, “I am thrilled to see this relationship forming between Gettysburg College students and our local police department. This is a strong and positive connection to build. As CLAC committee chair, forging transparent and trustworthy relationships with other leaders of the community is one of my main objectives in improving Gettysburg College.”
Chair of the Wellness and Safety Committee Dominic DiLuzio ’26 expanded on Lemon’s views, adding, “The deteriorating relationship between police and the student body is due to inflamed emotions on both sides. The only path that I see forward is to come to a mutual agreement on how policing works on campus. Improving our relationship is the first step.”
DiLuzio and Lemon are working together to mend the relationship between Gettysburg students and the GPD by organizing an event to bring the two groups together. They, along with Chief Glenny, hope this event will strengthen the bond between the students and the GPD, for they are inevitably intertwined.
This article originally appeared on pages 12 to 13 of the April 2023 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.