Hanover Police Tactics Harm Dartmouth Students

A report from Rehabs.com confirms what we have known for some time: Dartmouth leads the Ivy League in alcohol-related arrests. And it’s by a mile.

Between 2009 and 2011, Dartmouth saw 12.53 alcohol arrests per 1,000 students. The closet Ivy in comparison was Yale, which recorded 2.27. Brown, Columbia, Harvard, and Penn counted 0.00 arrests per 1,000 students. Drug-related arrests were also highest among Dartmouth students, though they were closer in line with other schools.


Do Dartmouth students really drink that much more than peers at other schools? While we certainly have a reputation for consuming more alcohol, the arrests we experience are on a completely different level than our peer institutions. The culprit behind these arrests is certainly not some sort of binge drinking culture that apparently is confined to Hanover and absent in other places.

What accounts for these arrests is the over-aggressive, uncompromising Hanover Police. Hyper-vigilant policing in Hanover is nothing new. It is well known that the Hanover Police go out of their way to arrest Dartmouth students. On a typical Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday, the Hanover Police will park a squad car about fifty yards down the street from my fraternity and wait. They watch students coming and going and pounce when they see someone stumble or suggest even the slightest sign of intoxication.

The Hanover Police force’s tactics do nothing to protect students or the community. Unless a student is at serious risk of injuring him or herself due to alcohol poisoning, what good is the police force doing? Furthermore, a cop sitting in a car that far away is in no position to judge if a student is at such a level of intoxication. As President Hanlon has suggested, it is the responsibility of the Dartmouth community to watch out for each other in these situations.

The Hanover Police resort to other slimy tactics as well. Officers listen to ambulance calls, and when they hear about a student going to the hospital for excessive intoxication, they follow the ambulance right to the hospital. This strategy requires no actual police work, but allows the officer to make an easy underage drinking arrest. Maybe that looks good on the officer’s record? Or maybe it’s the power trip? I fail to see how this strategy fits within the Hanover Police’s stated mission to “provide professional and compassionate police service through partnerships that build trust, reduce crime, create a safe environment and enhance the quality of life in our community.” If ambulance chasing is professional police work, then the Hanover force is giving a bad name to hard working policemen around the country.

The main issue which I can think of that would necessitate heavy policing is drunk driving. But drunk driving is almost entirely absent at Dartmouth, largely because of the small size of our campus. It is something I am proud of, and also something that is underrated about our campus culture. At many other schools, drunk driving is an unfortunate norm that inevitably leads to disastrous consequences. It would be understandable if HPo’s vigilance was in order to prevent drunk driving, but that cannot be the case.

So what is it? Why does our sleepy town’s police force uncompromisingly arrest Dartmouth students?

One answer could be lucrative fees. The cost of Hanover’s Alcohol Diversions Program, which is what many underage students face after an alcohol-related arrest, is $400.

Writing in the Valley News last May, Jim Kenyon shed light of some troubling figures. Each year, the Town of Hanover collects about $45,000 from Diversions fees. Of that total, only $20,000-$25,000 is actually required to administer the program. The rest of that total goes into the town coffers.

In a subsequent response to Kenyon’s article, former Hanover Community Counselor Dena Romero insisted that the Diversions program was designed to be an “educational alternative to court for first-time offenders arrested for alcohol possession.”

That goal may be well and good for other Hanover residents, but Dartmouth’s own BASICS program is a far better option for students. First, there is no $400 charge for going through the BASICS program. Also, from what I have heard from friends who have done both programs, the Diversions program is more of the typical middle school D.A.R.E. class that tries to scare students away from drugs and alcohol, while the BASICS program is a less judgmental, and more effective conversation about one’s relationship with alcohol. Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, just because Diversions is an “educational alternative to court” does not mean that it goes without consequences. On numerous job applications that I have filled out I have been asked if I have been required to attend a Diversions program.

Herein lies the crux of the problem for Dartmouth students. The Hanover Police force’s overly aggressive tactics put us at a competitive disadvantage to our Ivy League peers in searching for jobs. Our peers do not face such tactics and thus have a lower chance of being arrested despite the fact that the social activity they engage in compared to what we do is not necessarily more safe or even legal. When faced with two similarly competitive candidates, an employer will choose the one without an arrest, or even Diversions, on his or her record.

Perhaps it is entirely because of Hanover’s relatively peaceful nature that the police are so trenchant when it comes to dealing with Dartmouth students. As a resident of the woefully dangerous city of New Orleans, maybe I am more accustomed to police officers who have serious problems to tackle. Murder, hard drugs, and gang violence are what they encounter every day. Here in Hanover, maybe the most serious crimes that officers generally contend with are college kids who have played one too many games of pong.

However terrible these policing polices have been, there is reason for optimism for change in the future. With the search for a new police chief for Hanover currently in progress, we can hope that the new chief will critically examine his force’s presence in Hanover especially as it relates to Dartmouth. Like it or not, the College is the heart of Hanover and is the reason this small town can be so prosperous. A new direction for the Hanover Police is possible with this change in leadership. Furthermore, President Hanlon has a unique opportunity to greatly improve this situation. While he has no direct influence over the selection of a new chief, Hanlon has great leverage in Hanover and he should use that to help direct a new way forward for the police force.

Other schools do not face this problem, and with any luck the change in leadership will shift the attitude and strategy of the Hanover Police.

For more reading on this subject, consider Dartblog’s series of articles from 2009 concerning the issue.


— Carl E. Marlborough IV

  • atuckie

    The tabulations shown in this article aid the case for much more vigilance on the other 7 campuses, not for a reduction of vigilance in Hanover.

    The Hanover police does not put drunk kids at competitive disadvantage. Drunk kids put drunk kids at competitive disadvantage.

  • KRP

    So it's the police's fault for doing their jobs and watching out for the safety of the students and the community while punishing people who are breaking the law?
    Perhaps students could be responsible, follow the laws and avoid the consequences?

  • Guest

    Hanover Police escort ambulances to the hospital because the ambulance drivers demand protection in case the drunk student gets violent.

  • Tom Skidd

    Wasn't Dartmouth the school on which Animal House was based? In D.C., we had the GU police, the Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police, the Park Police, and who knows how many unknown police, with no problems whatever, even when one of the forces found a group washing a car in a river in Rock Creek Park. And some of us were jealous when Animal House was released. R.I.P., John B.

  • Matt

    There are other examples out there where selective enforcement skews results. In the US blacks are 4x more likely to be arrested for marijuana use, even though their use rates are similar to other populations.


    It's pretty clear from the comparative table of arrest rates by school that urban police have bigger fish to fry than small town police with relative large college campuses. Hate to say it, but even as a Dartmouth alum, I probably will steer my son towards other schools. If he's talented enough to get into Dartmouth some day, he'll do well elsewhere as well. Dartmouth's isolated location makes it a toxic crucible where all parties seem to lose perspective.

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