The presence of police departments on college campuses has steadily increased over the past 50 years. In fact, there are over 4,000 police forces operating on private and public universities around the country. According to research by the Justice Department, campus police officers are much more prevalent at public universities than private institutions. As of 2012, 92 percent of public colleges and universities have armed campus police forces, while only 38 percent of private institutions have their own police units.
The Role of Campus Police
Campus police officers play an important role in maintaining a safe environment for students, which means that they function like other law enforcement agencies. However, unlike state or local law enforcement, campus police powers must be granted and defined by some type of state authority. Campus police departments are typically responsible for:
- Dealing with violations of campus, local, state, or federal law
- Notifying the university of potential or actual instances of criminal activity
- Responding to mental health and physical health emergencies
- Patrolling campus property on foot, bike, or squad cars
- Performing regular security checks of campus buildings
- Conducting investigations of reported crimes on campus
The Authority of Campus Police At Public Universities in Texas
Under Section 51.203 of the Texas Education Code, campus police officers at public colleges and universities are granted the same powers, privileges, and immunities as other law enforcement agencies. This authority includes the power to make arrests and to enforce all traffic laws on streets and highways.
The primary jurisdiction of campus police includes all property that is owned, leased, rented or otherwise under the control of the college or university that employs the officer. Additionally, a campus police officer has full law enforcement authority outside of his or her primary jurisdiction if:
- is summoned by another law enforcement agency to provide assistance;
- is assisting another law enforcement agency; or
- is otherwise performing his duties as a peace officer for the college or university that employs the peace officer
The Authority of Campus Police At Private Universities in Texas
Texas Education Code Section 51.212 authorizes private colleges and universities to employ police officers for the purpose of enforcing state and local law on their campuses. Campus police officers at private institutions of higher learning have full law enforcement authority if the officer:
- is on the property under the control and jurisdiction of their employer,
- is performing duties assigned to the officer by the institution and within a county in which the institution has land
- or is otherwise authorized by a mutual assistance agreement between the private university and the police department of a local municipality.
Campus police officers must be certified under the requirements of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, which set the minimum training, certification, and educational standards for all law enforcement in the state.
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