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UMW releases Judy Hample's 911 call

Date published: 2/25/2010

The University of Mary Washington yesterday released audio and video recordings of UMW President Judy Hample's controversial emergency test call to campus police.

The university originally declined The Free Lance-Star's Freedom of Information Act request for the audio recording in January, saying it was "evidence related to a criminal investigation."

Campus police responded to the incident as if it were a real emergency because they didn't know it was a test.

Hample agreed to release the recording--in a compact disc--after The Free Lance-Star called the state Attorney General's Office yesterday. Previously, Hample said the office's lawyers who represent the university were "dictating to us what we have to do" and said she didn't have the authority to make the recording public.

She retracted that statement yesterday. Hample will resign June 30 after serving two years of a five-year contract.

Some audio during Hample's call, made during a campus safety walk Sept. 30 with students and administrators, is missing and university officials say they're not sure why. Hample was testing an emergency phone at UMW's parking deck.

She acknowledged that the recording doesn't include her report that the suspect might have a gun.

"I was trying to accelerate the concern that I had in order to get the police to come," Hample said yesterday.

During the call, Hample--who stated her name but didn't identify herself as UMW's president--described the suspect as tall and skinny and said "he's got some kind of athletic jersey that's sort of pulled up over, covered over his head."

"I'm with two other women, and he's really harassing us, and we're scared to get in our car," she said.

Her voice grew more panicked as the call progressed.

"Can you please hurry?" she asked at one point.

"They're on their way right now, absolutely," the dispatcher replied.

"How long is it going to be?" Hample said.

Eventually, after the dispatcher lost contact with Hample, a student who was on the safety walk told him it was a test and said to ignore it.

"No, I'm not going to ignore it," the dispatcher replied. "I have officers in the area."

"They're in the area," the student said. "You can trust us. It's a safety walk."

Hample said Wednesday that she thinks she handled the situation "absolutely correctly" and said it's not her fault campus police didn't know it was a test.

"I did what was professional and responsible," Hample said. "And knowing how this would turn out I would do the same thing tomorrow, because I did the right thing for the right reason."

She said she was testing the emergency system--called a blue light phone--because of concerns about its reliability.

Some in the college community have characterized Hample's test as filing a false report and said she jeopardized public safety.

Others applauded her efforts to gauge police response times.

--Jeff Branscome

UMW's original response to The Free Lance-Star's Freedom of Information Act Request:

The Freedom of Information Act (Act) lists certain exclusions from the chapter, which permit agencies to withhold certain records. The records you have requested are excluded from the provisions of the Act. Specifically, Va. Code Ann. 2.2-3706(F)(1) excludes "complaints, memoranda, correspondence, case files or reports, witness statements, and evidence relating to a criminal investigation or prosecution, other than criminal incident information as defined in subsection A." There is one record, an audio recording, that meets the description of your request for "copies of the recordings." However, your request falls within the exclusion of 2.2-3706(F)(1), because it is evidence related to a criminal investigation. As a result, the records you requested are being entirely withheld.