Lawmakers react to Rice University police arrest
State lawmakers are now demanding more answers following a Local 2 investigation into the level of force Rice University police officers used to arrest a bike thief.
Local 2 obtained police dash cam video showing Ivan Waller being hit several times with a baton by two Rice University police officers. The incident happened while Waller was being arrested for stealing a "bait bike" from campus.
"No one has yet to understand why they used so much force," said State Representative Garnet Coleman.
As Local 2 reported we obtained only a portion of the video that sources said is several minutes in length. However, Rice University officials blocked all of Local 2's attempts to view the entire video to gain a better understanding of why officers felt that level of force was necessary.
"Not being able to get information from the school is a problem as well," said Coleman.
Rice officials stated Waller "resisted" officers attempts to arrest him and that he "had to be forcibly restrained and handcuffed." Rice officials stated an internal review of the incident "concluded that officers used the amount of force necessary to overcome the suspect's resistance to arrest."
However, when Local 2 pushed for more answers under the Texas Public Information Act, Rice attorneys wrote that the since the police department is a division of an "independent, private institution of higher education" it is "not required to respond to your requests for information under the Act."
"We're going to have to do something to create new rules," Coleman said in reference to the level of transparency required of state certified police departments created by private institutions.
State Senator John Whitmire also sent a statement to Local 2.
"I was shocked and outraged and the incident should be fully investigated and go where the facts take us. In regards to Rice University not cooperating with the public's right to know because they are private will not survive scrutiny. They get state money and their police are licensed and certified by a state agency. I urge Rice not to tarnish their outstanding reputation by protecting these out of control officers. As the voice of police officers in Austin I will not tolerate what I saw on TV by the officers or Rice's lack of transparency. Rice will not win and I urge them to cooperate and hold people accountable. I will be working on this," the statement read.
Waller has filed a formal complaint with the civil rights division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Waller said he was told the DA's Office will investigate this incident.