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    June 2013

    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 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 arrest and sued the institution alleging improper arrest. Because the police were mistaken about their law enforcement authority in off-campus areas, the institution had no defense and was fully responsible for the harm to the student.

    Steps for Clarifying Jurisdiction

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

    • Identify law enforcement bodies with jurisdiction over campus matters. These entities might include 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.
    • Revise or draft an MOU between local law enforcement bodies and the institution addressing:
      • How campus police and local law enforcement can request and provide assistance on matters outside of that body's jurisdiction.
      • Which law enforcement body has primary jurisdiction for investigating complex cases, such as those involving multiple parties, which are likely to require collaboration between multiple police departments.
      • Which entity has jurisdiction for responding to crimes occurring off-campus on property owned by the institution or adjacent to it.
      • How local law enforcement will coordinate with the institution when it receives reports, conducts investigations involving students or employees, or needs to come on campus to pursue a suspect or execute a warrant.
    • Integrate the MOU's terms into the operating procedures of your campus police department. Train all employees on the MOU's terms so they become the standard practices of your campus security force. To affect behavior, train regularly and ensure supervisors consistently reinforce compliance by correcting mistakes about jurisdiction.
    • Pre-program jurisdiction maps into the local police dispatch system. This ensures reports are automatically referred to the correct agency.
    • Regularly communicate with local police. Create opportunities for relationship building 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.


    Memorandum of Understanding between the Syracuse University Department of Public Safety and the Syracuse Police
    Frequently Asked Questions about Harvard University Police
    Frequently Asked Questions about Northwestern University Police 


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