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    October 2019

    Clarifying the Jurisdiction of Campus Police

    When campus police are unclear about their geographic authority or jurisdiction, serious problems can arise. For example, in a recent United Educators (UE) claim, campus police broke up an off-campus fraternity party and arrested several students. A student was later denied an internship because of the criminal record and sued the institution, alleging improper arrest. Because the police were mistaken about their authority in off-campus areas, the institution had no defense and was fully responsible for harm to the student.

    Clarifying Jurisdiction

    To ensure campus security and police correctly assert their jurisdiction, consider the following actions:

    • Review all state and local laws and administrative rules for directives about jurisdiction.
    • Identify any law enforcement bodies with jurisdiction over campus matters, such as municipal police, sheriff’s departments, state police, and federal law enforcement.
    • Consolidate all local enforcement bodies under a single memorandum of understanding (MOU). Multiple MOUs can lead to confusion about each entity’s role.
    • Pre-program jurisdiction maps into the local police dispatch system. This ensures reports are automatically referred to the correct agency.
    • Communicate regularly with local police. Create opportunities to build relationships between the institution’s security force and other law enforcement entities. For example, hold regular joint meetings or lunches or, when the need arises, consider hiring local police to provide security at campus events.

    Revising or Drafting an MOU

    Ensure the new or revised MOU between local law enforcement bodies and the institution is well-crafted and includes: 

    • Geographic boundaries for campus police jurisdiction.
    • Which entity has jurisdiction for responding to crimes occurring off campus on property owned by or adjacent to the institution.
    • How campus police and local law enforcement can request and provide assistance on matters outside their own jurisdiction.
    • Which law enforcement body has primary jurisdiction for investigating complex cases — such as those involving multiple parties — that are likely to require collaboration among multiple police departments.
    • The circumstances under which campus police should respond when they witness traffic violations, criminal behavior, or dangerous activity off campus.
    • How local law enforcement will coordinate with the institution when it receives reports, conducts investigations involving students or employees, or when it needs to come on campus to pursue a suspect or execute a warrant.
    • Required and discretionary notification situations between the campus police and each local law enforcement entity.
    • Details regarding sexual assault prevention, reporting, and response, including sharing of data and strategies and conducting sexual assault investigations.
    • Clery Act compliance, including sharing of crime statistics and other data, as necessary.

    Integrate MOU terms into your campus police department’s operating procedures. Train all campus security employees on the terms so they become standard practices.

    To affect behavior, train regularly and ensure supervisors consistently reinforce compliance by correcting mistakes about jurisdiction.

    More From United Educators

    Addressing Sexual Violence in MOUs Between Campuses and Law Enforcement

    Additional Resources

    Memorandum of Understanding Between the Syracuse University Department of Public Safety and the Syracuse Police

    Occidental College and LAPD Memorandum of Agreement FAQs


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