USA TODAY / ITHACA JOURNAL
Are campus police qualified — or necessary?
BY NICHOLAS CASALE
New York, May 16, 2016 --- From crowd control to working with government law enforcement, from heavy weapons training to counter terrorism cooperation, the role of the campus cop has exploded: expanding in size, scope and power, while morphing more and more to look and act like a municipal police force.
At Yale University, campus police accosted New York Times social justice editor Charles Blow’s son at gunpoint, saying the third year African-American student fit the description of a burglary suspect.
Critics say incidents like this are problematic because private universities don’t have to disclose information such as guideline on “use of force” or “stop and frisk.”
Most private police departments enjoy protections from Freedom of Information laws, unlike their municipal counterparts.
A reporter for ESPN requested documents from Notre Dame’s campus police concerning 275 student-athletes. Notre Dame denied the request, claiming the police department is a private entity not subject to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act, and a trial court agreed.
Critics say there is a growing divide between students of color and law enforcement on college campuses, too.
A University of Cincinnati police officer was charged with the murder of a black motorist he shot during a routine traffic stop. The city prosecutor called for the university police force to be disbanded, saying Cincinnati police officers are better trained to manage law enforcement issues on the campus.
Under special arrangements, campus police claim implied exclusivity — giving them jurisdiction over city cops on campus, which experts say is inherently conflicting.
Cornell University employs a private police force empowered as “special Tompkins County deputy sheriffs” to regulate traffic, protect property, prevent crimes according to the state Education Law, and enforce laws on campus with reduced peace officer powers according to the state Criminal Procedure Law.
Absent police officer authority, these special officers cannot obtain or execute search or arrest warrants. Yet they conduct all felony crime investigation on campus with no public oversight.
After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, campus cops started teaming up with government intelligence agencies, and critics say this could become problematic if not carefully monitored.
The FBI’s post-9/11 Campus Liaison Initiative has agents appearing at universities to gather intelligence, according to the agency website.
This new friendship between campus cops and the FBI may lead to university police monitoring speech, political discord and religious activities.
Experts point to Columbia and New York University with sprawling campuses throughout Manhattan. Each school uses unarmed security instead of armed police, letting the NYPD handle emergency calls and investigations.
Training campus security to better understand drug use and alcohol dependency, as well as suicide prevention, makes sense; so does reporting criminal intelligence and terrorist threats to municipal cops.
Having local police investigate felony crimes on campus makes the most sense.