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Clarify the Jurisdiction of Campus Police

Alyssa Keehan, Esq., CPCU, ARM
October 2020
How to ensure campus security and police correctly assert their jurisdiction

Serious problems can arise when your college or university’s campus police are unclear about their geographic authority or jurisdiction.

For example, in one United Educators (UE) claim, campus police broke up an off-campus fraternity party and arrested several students. A student later was 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.

Do this to help ensure campus security and police correctly assert their jurisdiction:

  • Review state and local laws and administrative rules for directives about jurisdiction.
  • Identify law enforcement bodies with jurisdiction over campus matters. This could 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 create 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 your 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.

Revise or Draft an MOU

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

  • Geographic boundaries for campus police jurisdiction
  • Which entity has jurisdiction for responding to crimes occurring off campus on property owned by or adjacent to your institution
  • How campus police and local law enforcement can request and provide help 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
  • 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 your 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
  • Required and discretionary notification situations between campus police and each local law enforcement entity
  • Details about 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 terms so they become standard practices.

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


More From UE

Address 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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