Arts & Culture / Featured / Mosaic / September 26, 2012

Peeking into Campus Safety’s confiscation closet

Among the items in long-term storage: an antique sword, a modified pellet rifle and two hookahs. This storage space, according to Schlaf, includes items that are not immediately destroyed, such as drugs, or non-illicit items that students may eventually want returned to them. (Charlie Gorney/TKS)

It’s a closet filled to the brim with alcohol, pellet guns, knives and microwave ovens — and it belongs to the Department of Campus Safety.

The office oversees dozens of “contraband” items confiscated from students over the past four years.

“We’re looking for anything that’s illegal by nature or illegal by virtue of the situation,” Knox Director of Campus Safety John Schlaf said.

Knox confiscation policies are “relatively broad,” he said, despite the fact that illegal drugs, weapons and explosives are the only items explicitly banned by the college’s general standards of conduct.

The department models this approach after local and state law, according to Schlaf, who previously served as Galesburg police chief for nearly two decades.

“I leave a lot of it up to the discretion of the officer at the time,” Schlaf said. “Most of it’s placed on his reasonable belief that a violation is taking place.”
Officers can choose to either give a warning or confiscate the item.

Schlaf pointed specifically to smoking materials — students may have pipes, tobacco or other paraphernalia, but if an officer has reason to believe smoking is taking place in the room, he will confiscate the item.

After an item is seized, officers must file a report and determine whether it will be returned, stored or destroyed.

Items are labeled with a yellow tag that includes the report number, date of the offense and in some cases the name of the student.

Students can appeal confiscations, but Schlaf urged that they visit his office the next day to discuss the matter.

“The time to do that is not when the item’s being confiscated,” he said.

Entering his sixth year as Campus Safety director, Schlaf has come across some colorful items. The most unique: a large, curved sword he said reminded him of something that might belong to a “Turkish warrior.”

“We’ve definitely confiscated some weird things in my time here,” he said.

Among the items in long-term confiscation: a half-consumed case of beer and, presumably, a beer bong. This storage space, according to Schlaf, includes items that are not immediately destroyed, such as drugs, or non-illicit items that students may eventually want returned to them. (Charlie Gorney/TKS)

Other head-scratchers include a bow and arrow, an ax, a switchblade and even a handgun in 2006.

With 39 years of police experience, Schlaf has overseen recovered items before — some even more bizarre than his encounters at Knox.

False teeth and human ashes were among the items housed at the Galesburg Police Department during his tenure with the force.

“Those things sat there for years,” he said.

Knox functions with a similar dynamic. Not all stored items were confiscated, but instead may have been misplaced by their owner and recovered by Campus Safety.

“Retainers, hearing aids… we even found a passport once that a student never came back to get,” Schlaf said.

While Schlaf could not put an exact number on the amount of items Campus Safety currently has in its possession, he called the figure “significant.”

“It’s hard to say, because we have items that go back four years,” he said. “There’s really no rhyme or reason to it. There are weekends we have zero confiscations and others where we have a bunch.”

In the past, Schlaf has returned items on the spot or agreed to do so after the student graduates, especially if the item has particular “sentimental value.”

Schlaf recalled a student whose “relatively expensive” hookah had been confiscated after the student was caught smoking in his room.

“They asked to get it back and we went ahead and kept it,” he said.

Campus Safety stores confiscated and recovered items in two separate rooms: the Campus Safety building, where items are normally destroyed in a “relatively short” manner, and a second hidden location, where items are stored for longer periods of time.

A confiscated hookah is kept in long-term confiscation by the Department of Campus Safety. While at face value some items are not necessarily illegal, Schlaf said, the manner in which they are used may constitute grounds for confiscation. (Charlie Gorney/TKS)

Schlaf revealed the room to The Knox Student on the condition that its location not be disclosed. He cited security reasons.

If Campus Safety retains a student’s confiscated item, it is likely housed here.

“Come by after graduation,” he said. “You never know. It may still be in storage.”

Matt McKinney
Matt McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. His experience with journalism ranges from a year as co-sports editor for TKS to an internship with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he used his Spanish language skills to report a front-page story on changes to federal immigration policy. He has also written for The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox’s Office of Communications. Matt is the recipient of the 2012 Knox College Kimble Prize for Feature Journalism and two awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including a first place award for sports game coverage. He is currently interning virtually with The Tampa Bay Times and will pursue his master's next year at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Tags:  beer bong Campus Safety closet confiscation contraband illegal matt mckinney sword

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Matt McKinney
Matt McKinney is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. His experience with journalism ranges from a year as co-sports editor for TKS to an internship with the Chicago Sun-Times, where he used his Spanish language skills to report a front-page story on changes to federal immigration policy. He has also written for The Galesburg Register-Mail and Knox’s Office of Communications. Matt is the recipient of the 2012 Knox College Kimble Prize for Feature Journalism and two awards from the Illinois College Press Association, including a first place award for sports game coverage. He is currently interning virtually with The Tampa Bay Times and will pursue his master's next year at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.




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