ALLENDALE, Mich. ― Ottawa County authorities said Grand Valley State University has a policy discouraging prompt reporting of sexual assaults that undermines investigators’ ability to gather evidence and successfully prosecute the crimes.
Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald Frantz told MLive that the process is concerning because it hampers the ability to build cases.
The university’s police department investigates sexual assaults on campus and is supposed to forward cases with enough evidence to the prosecutor’s office. Frantz said reports trickle in from the university weeks or even months late.
“One of the problems we are having with reports coming so late is that we are unable to gather physical evidence,” he said. “It is hard to prosecute cases that are not thoroughly investigated.”
Ottawa County sheriff’s officials are investigating four off-campus assaults this fall near the university’s main campus in Allendale.
Frantz said he and Sheriff Gary Rosema have had discussions with Grand Valley State’s Title IX coordinator and equity officer, Theresa Rowland, about how soon the university turns over information to the prosecutor’s office.
“We need that evidence to support one version or the other,” said Frantz. “Of those submitted, few are charged, and it has to do with the quality of the case.”
Rowland refused to say if she has spoken to either Frantz or Gary about the issues, MLive reported.
University spokeswoman Mary Eilleen Lyon said the school has a policy that encourages quick reporting of alleged assaults with respect for the victim’s needs.