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Special Jurisdiction Law Enforcement Agencies (page 2)

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Updated on Aug 4, 2010

Just the Facts

Campus policing dates its existence to 1894, when Yale University hired two officers to patrol its campus, which was and still is located within the city of New Haven, CT. This set the pattern of campus policing for more than 50 years. Colleges primarily hired a combination of officers who lacked police authority or officers who had retired from the local police force of the city in which the campus was located. Most of these security departments lacked prestige; they were generally grouped under plant and properties, along with maintenance personnel. As the use of automobiles expanded and students and faculty began to drive to school, parking enforcement became the major responsibility for most of these early campus security agencies.

Changes in status and responsibilities began in the 1970s and have continued since then. The first changes were in response to student activism that led to protests and demonstrations on campuses, resulting in a need for enhanced security coverage. Additional responsibilities were also assigned to campus agencies in response to the expansion of higher education. As campuses grew, along with the vast increase in the number of students, colleges began to realize they needed to also expand their security capabilities. Some private colleges petitioned their state legislatures for permission to appoint fully-sworn police officers. One of the first was Rice University in Houston, TX, which helped to set a pattern of converting its security force into a police force. There was considerable cost in doing this because all officers now had to meet state-mandated background and training requirements.

Another impetus for change occurred when Congress enacted the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990. This required all institutions of higher learning to make available to students and the public annual crime statistics and to have available a comprehensive plan for student safety. This, and a series of later laws, led to a greater focus on campus safety at the same time that statistics indicated a rise in crime on campuses.

To address these problems and to allay fears of students and their parents about campus safety, many colleges have upgraded their security forces into full-service police departments, with armed officers. Campus officers have often attended state-certified police training programs and their departments began to resemble local police departments, with canine units, bicycle patrol, and crime prevention and community policing units. In the 1990s, campuses such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ohio State University, and two University of California branches (Berkeley and Davis) developed their own Special Weapons and Tactical (SWAT) teams rather than rely on local police departments.

Today SWAT teams, canine, bomb disposal, and other high-profile police specialties are common, particularly on the main campuses of large state institutions. Many campuses are located in small communities, though. The population on campus is often larger than the town population. The campus is often a major focal point for cultural and sporting events. The university is often also the largest single employer in the area. And today it is also not uncommon for the campus police department to be bigger, better trained, and better paid than the local police.

Reflecting these changes, the majority of agencies have changed their names from security department to police department to reflect their broader mandate. Many have also widened the jurisdiction of their officers.

Almost 50% of campus agencies refer to themselves as police departments and another 25% use the title of department of public safety, which often indicates that officers are also responsible for safety programs, crime prevention, and providing emergency medical services on campus. As campuses have spread beyond the college gates to include off-campus residence halls, fraternity and sorority houses, and a variety of classroom and lab buildings, many colleges now obtain statewide policing authority for their officers so that they are able to take responsibility for events both on and off campus.

Campus police departments vary considerably in size, which is not related to levels of authority. The largest number of campus officers, almost 350, work for New York University, and all are nonsworn personnel. A 2004–2005 survey of campus agencies by BJS counted 10 with staffs of between 76 and 166 fully sworn police officers. Indicating that they relied on a combination of sworn and nonsworn officers, some campuses with the largest number of sworn police officers were also listed among the largest employers of security staff. Generally, where a mixed force existed, nonsworn officers were assigned to building security and parking-related duties. With some exceptions, colleges that relied on the largest number of police officers tended to be in urban areas.

Because they work within a highly educated community, more than 25% of campus police agencies require candidates to have a college degree or some college credits to match the education level of the community being served. This is considerably higher than for all other areas of law enforcement except federal policing. Since many colleges and university extend free or reduced price tuition benefits to all full-time employees and their dependents (generally defined as spouses and children), if you were hoping to continue your education while working you may find campus policing an attractive alternative you had not previously considered.

If you are currently studying on a campus with its own police department, a good way to learn about positions is to schedule an appointment with the chief or deputy chief. Many of these departments are not required to hire under civil service regulations. Vacancies may often be filled less formally than those in a local police department. Due to the large number of agencies, as with other areas of policing, it is difficult to make across-the-board generalizations, but there are indications that campus police departments rely to a greater extent on interviews and background investigations of candidates than on physical agility. This is not to imply that patrolling a college campus is so different from patrolling a small community, but it seems to reflect a greater interest in an officer's overall ability to feel comfortable with a more service-oriented rather than a crime fighter's view of the police role.

As campus agencies have begun to more closely resemble other types of police departments, they have increased their emphasis on employing fulltime officers. Despite this, many agencies employ students as part-time officers or for dispatching, parking enforcement, or night-hour student escort services. You might be eligible for a work-study position or for a paid part-time job that can help you to pay for your education. If you are interested in a career in campus policing, either of these options may pave the way for a full-time position once you complete your degree requirements and graduate.

Transportation Agency Policing

Another large category of special jurisdiction policing is related to transportation. About 9,000 police officers are employed by 130 agencies, most protecting airports, but also mass transit systems, maritime ports, and bridges and tunnels. This area of policing has grown and is very likely to continue to grow due to concerns over passenger safety, particularly since transportation networks have been targets of terrorist activity in many countries around the world.

Travelers tend to think of a transit hub, whether an airport, train station or bus depot, bridge, tunnel, or ship or ferry terminal, as a transient place, one that people travel through as quickly as possible and return to only rarely. But this is not at all what these facilities are like. Many, including the largest airports and train stations, are quite literally like cities. There may be thousands of employees who arrive and depart daily. There are also hundreds of thousands—maybe more—passengers, some of whom are regular commuters who park their cars, eat their meals, and do their shopping on the way to or from work, and, particularly in the case of train and bus facilities, pass through on their way from one part of a community to another.

For all these people, the special jurisdiction police are the same as their local police during their time in the facility. Become the victim of a crime and the transportation agency police will take the report and investigate the crime. Have your luggage stolen or your car taken from the parking facility and the transportation agency police will take the report and investigate the crime.

In addition to protecting people, transportation jurisdiction police are also involved in property protection. The infrastructure itself is a potential target. Railcars and tracks, buses, stations and garages, ships and cargo storage areas, airplanes and runways, and bridges and tunnels, for example, all require protection from unauthorized persons. In addition to the obvious terrorist threats, more routine dangers exist due to the potential for accidents in these areas.

Although many transportation agencies assign a larger percentage of their officers to patrol than some large city agencies, transportation police, like local, state, and campus police, often work with canines, especially explosive detection dogs. Many agencies assign plainclothes specialists to counteract the thieves, pickpockets, fraudsters, and scam artists who are attracted to these facilities. Generally, people who are in a rush may not notice they have been a victim of a crime until hours later, which makes them easy crime targets.

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