After being arrested, Rowan’s happy hour lasted longer than he expected.
As stated on Temple’s Campus Safety Services Web site, a Temple police officer’s obligation is “to help ensure the safety and security of everyone at the university,” and I agree. I understand the cops are here for my protection and have a genuine interest in my wellbeing, but I wish they would exert greater effort in identifying the guilty and not the innocent.
On Sept. 17, I was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, after a fight broke out in front of the Draught Horse Pub at 1421 Cecil B. Moore Ave. But I was not in the wrong.
I was inside having a few drinks before the bar’s happy hour ended at midnight. I left to stand out front with a friend who was smoking a cigarette, when two guys started trash talking close by. Someone threw a fist, and all hell broke loose.
After watching drunk college students push and shove for a few moments, I rushed into the crowd after a friend who was taken aside by a bike cop who had just arrived. As I made my way to the front of the scuffle, I was forced against a squad car, handcuffed, placed in the back of the car and taken into custody. I was detained for about two hours before being released with a fine and a special invitation to Philadelphia Community Court.
When the cops arrived at the scene, it was bedlam. There were at least two different fights happening at once, and happy hour had just ended, so I can see how difficult it must have been to try to control a crowd of that magnitude. But I also believe in identifying the troublemakers – not innocent bystanders.
It may have been difficult for the officers – the fight exploded long before any officers were dispatched, and it’s often difficult to disseminate between good and evil – but it wasn’t impossible.
When I went in front of the Philadelphia Community Court judge, she didn’t accept a plea. She summoned me back a month later, when I had to provide the court with my official Temple roster to prove I was a full-time student to demonstrate I was a productive member of society before all the charges were dropped.
But it still wasn’t over.
I was informed my official criminal record would still list the offense until I got a lawyer to have my record expunged. Being a poor college student, I had to track down a public defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia offices at 1441 Sansom St., and I am still waiting for a response. Mind you, this is all after I was found not guilty.
After winning my case in Philadelphia Community Court, I received an e-mail from Temple’s Department of Student Conduct, informing me that my actions the night of Sept. 17 violated university policies. I was summoned to appear before a conduct board, which consisted of two professors and a student leader.
In the UDC’s version of a common courtroom, located in the Student Center, I stood as my own council. I gave my version of what happened that night and posed questions to the three officers who responded to the disturbance as they testified before the board. Only one witness testified against another student arrested that night.
The board asked the witness if he had any recollection of my participation in the violence.
“I don’t know why this kid is here,” the student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said to the court, pointing a thumb in my direction. “He didn’t do anything wrong.”
I was found not responsible for three violations – the UDC said my participation in a fight that occurred outside the Draught Horse three months ago was insignificant – but responsible for my “failure to comply with directions of university officials or law enforcement officers.”
Law enforcement officials should try to arrest someone because they are disturbing the peace – not because they want to set an example.
Tom Rowan Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.