Norfolk State University and NSU Police Under Fire for Alleged Civil Rights Abuses
Photo Credit: Norfolk State University
Written by: Sam Orlando
Norfolk, VA - A young woman attending Norfolk State University is planning to sue local authorities for civil rights violations after being arrested and detained for several days. Aaliyah Phillips, a junior political science major at NSU, was arrested on February 9th following what she believed to be a routine traffic stop on campus.
Phillips stated that after circling a parking lot near her campus residence, she noticed she was surrounded by campus police officers with weapons drawn. After following all of the police commands, Phillips was arrested and spent four days in Norfolk City Jail before being released.
Phillips now faces four misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident, including reckless driving, failure to stop for police, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. A video of the incident was shared on social media, showing an officer knocking on the back of Phillips' car and several voices on the video referencing seeing guns.
Phillips' mother, Dareline Jackson, flew in from out of state to help handle the legal fallout from the stop. "An officer told me, 'She was supposed to have gotten a slap on the hand and released on her own recognizance.' But he also told me, 'Yes, the situation went from zero to 100,'" she said.
Phillips and her mother have retained legal counsel and plan to move forward with civil lawsuits against Norfolk State University and campus police for civil rights violations. Phillips said, "I have a mugshot. I was a criminal in the eyes of Virginia."
This incident highlights the need for police reform, particularly in light of the recent criticism of Norfolk's prosecutor Ramin Fatehi's clear record of failing to prosecute violent crime in the city. The heavy-handed policing in this case, which resulted in a student spending several days behind bars on misdemeanor charges, seems to be a waste of time and resources when there are certainly more pressing issues to be addressed in the City. Worse, the activities of the NSU police department call into question whether the agency actually respects the civil liberties of the students who spend large sums of money to attend the school and receive an education.
Phillips faced a conduct hearing with Norfolk State University on Friday, where they asked questions about the incident itself. At the moment, Phillips is still a full-time student with NSU but said there are several possible additional consequences based on what the school investigation finds, ranging from a written essay, disciplinary fines, probation, suspension or expulsion.
Phillips has court appearances for all of her misdemeanor charges next March. The incident has sparked outrage among students and civil rights activists, who are calling for an independent investigation into the incident and for police reform in the city.
This incident has raised concerns about the use of the SCOP program, a controversial process through which private companies can establish their own police forces and then register those police agencies and officers with the state and the Circuit Court. Breaking Through News reached out to the Norfolk State University Police Department, and the officer on duty confirmed that Norfolk State University Police receive their police powers under the SCOP program.
The use of the SCOP program has been criticized in the past for potential abuses of power, and Breaking Through News is continuing its investigation into the Norfolk State University Police Department. This program has been a topic of controversy in Virginia, as it allows private institutions to create their own police force, potentially leading to a lack of accountability. Can you imagine deciding one day to create your own police force, with the power to detain, arrest, charge, and search people who happen upon your neighborhood? Although that doesn't seem legal or consistent with the civil rights protections contained in both the US and Virginia Constitutions, in Virginia, you can do it as long as you convince a local Judge to sign your application and order.
The incident involving Aaliyah Phillips has sparked outrage among students and civil rights activists, who are calling for an independent investigation into the incident and for police reform in the city and at the school. Phillips and her mother have retained legal counsel and plan to move forward with civil lawsuits against Norfolk State University and campus police for civil rights violations.
Phillips has court appearances for all of her misdemeanor charges next March, and the public is watching closely as this story unfolds.