[LISTEN] Auburn police officer calls students 'idiots,' praises ‘good’ arrests in secret audio recording

Josiah Ryan
Contributing Reporter
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A secret recording of a City of Auburn Police Division meeting reveals an officer calling Auburn University students “idiots” and celebrating a number of “good arrests” the department made on campus last year.

Lieutenant Matthew Coffey can be heard in a secret recording calling students a "group of idiots."

“We have a whole new group of idiots that come here every fall,” said Lieutenant Matthew Coffey, a City of Auburn Division police officer, on the recording, which was obtained by Campus Reform late last month.

“[W]e need to stay on em, you know, learn em quick, learn em early,” Coffey continued.

“You know a lot of this stuff they are out here doing ain’t gonna be tolerated,” he said. “Going out getting drunk and doing stupid stuff, walking around carrying a beer. There’s gonna be consequences to it and we are that consequence."

The recording was made by a former police officer on August 19, 2012, beginning at 5:12 p.m. The officer, who was terminated from the division, is considering legal actions against the department alleging an abusive and aggressive quota system.  

The identity of Coffey, as well as the veracity of the recording, has been independently confirmed by Campus Reform through multiple sources including an active police officer in the City of Auburn force, a former officer, and an Auburn University student.

Coffey did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Campus Reform.

LISTEN: Auburn police officer brands students as a "group of idiots" in secret recording

City of Auburn Assistant Police Chief Paul Register initially spoke with Campus Reform and promised comment but declined to answer further phone calls or emails after he received a copy of the recording upon his request.

“I would certainly want to determine the validity of that recording,” said Register before promising comment.  “I would want to listen to the recording so there is no confusion over the context.”

Auburn University is currently at the beginning of a five-year $2 million per-year contract with the City of Auburn Police Division for security services, Executive Director of Public Safety and Security Melvin Owens told Campus Reform on Monday.

Owens, however, said he has received no complaints from students concerning abuse or mistreatment.

“We have not experienced the attitude you're speaking of being displayed to the students nor have we received any complaints from the students about who say they have been treated but the police,” he said.  

Early in the recording Coffey also praised officers for the number of arrests they made on campus early in the semester saying they had managed to stay “real busy.”

“Keep up the good work, like I said we were real busy last week had a lot of good arrests, contacts, and NTCs,” he said.

Coffey also encouraged officers to swipe their ID cards in school card readers when on campus to increase the division’s perceived presence on campus to the school’s Information Technology department.

Although crime statistics are not yet available for Auburn University for 2012, it appears there was a drastic rise in the number of citations Auburn police officers issued to students for alcohol-related offenses 2011.

While there were just 47 citations for alcohol related crimes in 2009, and 33 citations in 2010, police distributed 121 citations for "liquor law violations" in 2011, according to Auburn University's Department of Public Safety and Security Website.

According to the same website the university employs the Auburn City Police Department for their “courteous police services.”

“They are staffed by well trained, professional police officers,” it reads.

The City of Auburn Police Division website, meanwhile, states its primary mission is to create a secure and safe space for the city and university.

“Mission... To protect the life and property of all citizens against criminal activity and to create a secure and safe environment within the City and University communities,” it says.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JosiahRyan

Josiah Ryan

Josiah Ryan

Contributing Reporter

Josiah Ryan is a contributing reporter for CampusReform.org and former director of communications for LI's Campus Leadership Program. 

Previously Josiah reported on the U.S. Senate for The Hill newspaper in Washington D.C. and was the cofounder of The Floor Action blog, a live-stream on policy, politics, and procedure in the upper chamber.

Josiah served as a reporter for the Jerusalem Post and JPOST TV in Tel Aviv, Israel, where he wrote on religion, culture, and the conflict.

Josiah is 2007 graduate of Hillsdale College. 

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