FAQs for the media
The following set of questions and answers are for general informational-use only. Like many professions, campus public safety is constantly evolving. If you would like additional clarification on any of the items below, please contact IACLEA Headquarters at (202) 618-8277 or contact email@example.com. (Last updated October 2016.)
- What are the different kinds of campus safety arrangements at colleges – plainclothes, security guards, sworn officers, etc.? How do these differ?
- What are the distinctions of a campus safety/police department versus the responsibilities of municipal police?
- What kind of training do campus police officers receive?
- What would the implications be for an institution of higher education and its surrounding community if campus police departments weren’t in effect, or had their powers limited?
- How common are mutual aid agreements with municipal police? How else do campus police departments work with cities and towns?
- When reporting a crime, who should students and residents located on campus call? (Campus police or municipal police?)
- Is the increased number of campus shootings prompting more colleges and universities to arm?
- What is the history behind campus police departments? How and why were they formed, and with what specific purpose?
- How many campus police departments are there in the United States?
- How many campus police departments across the United States are armed?
- How often have campus police officers fired their weapons in the last year/5 years, etc.?
- What are the standard staffing ratios for campus police departments?
- Use of Students in Campus Public Safety
- How do campus police respond to student hazing incidents?
- With respect to body cameras, how common are they among campus police departments? What are the pros and cons?
- What is the relationship between Clery requirements and Title IX investigations?
- Additional Resources
What are the different kinds of campus safety arrangements at colleges - plainclothes, security guards, sworn officers, etc.? How do these differ?
Campus police have proven to be an essential form of campus security, although different forms of security exist across institutions. Some schools hire only non-certified security personnel; others hire certified police officers. Many large colleges and universities have systematically professionalized their public safety departments, so that they are now analogous to their local, county, and state counterparts in policing. This transformation has included formalized law enforcement training, the granting of arrest powers, and in most cases the permission to carry firearms while on duty. There are many factors that come into play when considering whether or not to arm an institution's police force. Read the *IACLEA Arming Whitepaper for more details, (Resource Item #1).
In terms of utilizing uniformed or plain-clothed officers, a uniformed security officer is readily recognizable as serving in the security role, and suggests significant guardianship at the facility. The uniform also contributes to organizational identity within the security force, and to esprit de corps among the officers. However, plain-clothes personnel are able to move about the facility without undue attention from the public, which may be an advantage in an investigation or targeted security operations. The role of the security officer is first and foremost to observe and report, which arguably may be conducted with or without a uniform.
What are the distinctions of a campus safety/police department versus the responsibilities of municipal police?
The history of campus policing is well over 100 years old, and its origin is much the same as that of other police agencies, in that the focus was on security or watch-guard type services. If a campus police department is sworn, it has the same arrest powers as municipal police, within their jurisdictions. Both types of sworn officers require training and certification, and they are typically similarly armed. However, there are many variations of campus security, safety, or police officers, where municipal officers are basically the same.
The real distinction is in the ownership of the property within the jurisdictions, and the expectations of the community. Municipal police have limited or no ownership interest in the property within their jurisdiction, whereas campus officers patrol property that is owned by their institution. Another significant difference exists in the age of the campus clientele, as the students generally remain between 18-25 years old; a very high-risk age group to serve. Along with this difference, comes a unique level of expectation. The campus community and parents have an increased level of expectation from campus police, as illustrated by the requirement of information-sharing, such as the Clery Act and emergency notifications. Municipal agencies are not expected to meet as many requirements and if they are, it is typically at a much lower level. Acknowledging the clear differences, campus and municipal agencies will always share the same core mission to serve and protect.
What kind of training do campus police officers receive?
Training requirements to be a certified sworn police officer differ in length, duration, and course content from state to state; however, sworn campus police officers must meet their state's certification requirements.
A key distinction is if a campus has sworn certified officers or non-sworn security officers. As described above, all sworn certified officers must meet their state's training requirement, normally a police academy. Non-sworn training is different, and also varies from state to state.
What would the implications be for an institution of higher education and its surrounding community if campus police departments weren't in effect, or had their powers limited?
This specific question varies from campus-to-campus and community-to-community based upon the role of police or security team. In many communities, if the university police were to disband, it would devastate the local police agencies who are not staffed to cover the campus and its major events. This is especially true for institutions with full sworn powers. Campus police and security departments have a long history of not only making their campuses safer, but also the communities in which they are located.
How common are mutual aid agreements with municipal police? How else do campus police departments work with cities and towns?
The use of mutual aid agreements is becoming more common in the United States, since the federal government mandated their use several years ago. When possible, it is always advantageous to have a pre-determined plan of action between law enforcement agencies that overlap jurisdictions or share borders. Serious crimes of violence, such as homicide, which require specialized investigative expertise might be beyond the capability of a campus police department investigative staff. The agreement saves time in such a situation when time might be of the essence.
The overall degree to which campus and municipal police work together varies, but other specific examples include holding meetings on campus during which city leaders meet with the institution’s administration in regards to issues that impact both the campus and the city, such as 5k runs, or traffic control for large area functions. Some cities may utilize an-campus buildings as a sub-station for their Community Policing Officers, which adds additional police presence for the campus community. In certain instances, shared training opportunities are another benefit of how campus and municipal police work together.
When reporting a crime, who should students and residents located on campus call? (Campus police or municipal police?)
Students, faculty, staff and visitors should call campus police first during an on-campus emergency. Campus police are by far the most familiar with campus geography, where as local police usually do not have an in-depth understanding of campus locations and buildings. Students might know the name and location of a building, but not the actual physical address, usually asked for by local police telephone operators. Additionally, in accordance with the most recently published *US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report for the 2011-2012 academic year (Resource Item #2), over two-thirds (68%) of the U.S. 4-year colleges and universities with 2,500 or more students used sworn police officers to provide law enforcement services on campus; those with full arrest powers granted by a state or local authority. In the event the need arises, campus police departments normally have a way of contacting local police departments immediately after receiving emergency calls, if not at the very same time they are receiving the information.
At a minimum, the increased number of campus shootings are causing colleges and universities to review if it is practical to arm their public safety officers. According to the most recent US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report (issued for the 2011-2012 year), since the 2004-2005 school year, (which was prior to the Virginia Tech mass shooting) the majority of the 4,000 public and private college’s nationwide with a minimum enrollment of 2,500 students, are using armed officers. The report indicates an increase from 68% to 75%, based on the prior report.
What is the history behind campus police departments? How and why were they formed, and with what specific purpose?
Campus policing dates back to the late 1800's when Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, began an agreement with the New Haven Police Department to have two of their officers assigned exclusively to the campus as a means to deter crime, and to improve student-police relations. It was not until the late 1960’s that most college and university security departments became law enforcement agencies, as a result of the Vietnam War, Kent State University's shooting incident, and crime increasing on college campuses across America. During the late 1970's, many private college and university public safety departments were still classified as campus security. The laws passed in 1977 only authorized state-owned and controlled colleges and universities to maintain a campus police department. It would not be until years later that most states would recognize private campus policing.
According to the most recent *US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics report for the 2011-2012 Academic year (Resource Item #2) over 4,000 police departments operate at public and private postsecondary schools that have a minimum enrollment of 2,500 students.
The most recent information available from the *US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics report for the 2011-2012 Academic year (Resource Item #2) indicates that about 75% of colleges and universities with an enrollment of 2,500 students are using armed officers. The report also indicates that the vast majority of public colleges and universities (92 %) have sworn and armed campus officers. The report also reveals that armed officers are less established at private colleges (38%).
It does not appear that anyone other than individual police agencies collect data in this area. With the recent perceived increase of officer involved shootings around the country the past few years, the US Department of Justice has indicated that they will start to gather statistics in this area.
There is no single staffing ratio standard for campus police departments; however, in looking at staffing models, most agencies typically take one of four approaches when determining staffing needs: per capita, minimum-staffing, authorized level, or workload.
The per-capita approach requires determining an optimum number of officers per person, then calculating the number of officers needed for the total population. Simplicity is the obvious advantage to this method. The disadvantages include the failure to address how officer's time is spent, the quality of their output, and community conditions, policing style, needs or expectations of the community.
The minimum-staffing model uses the judgement of the police leadership to estimate the number of officers to deploy within patrol operations on a given shift. This model is fairly common within many police agencies. There are no objective standards for setting the minimum staffing level, which may result in deploying too many officers on one shift and too few on another. However, minimum staffing might be balanced with the arrangement with local law enforcement.
The authorized-level method uses budget allocations to determine staffing levels. This model is currently used by most agencies. It does not typically reflect any identifiable criteria, but rather an incremental budgeting or other political decision-making process. As such, it can become an artificial benchmark for need, creating the perception that the department is understaffed and overworked if the actual number of officers does not meet authorized numbers.
A more comprehensive approach is to determine staffing levels based on actual officer workload. Workload-based approaches derive staffing indicators from demand for service. This approach estimates future staffing needs by modeling current levels of activity. There are challenges to this analysis: definitions and measures of "work" may vary by agency. Still, staffing models based on workload and performance objectives are preferable to other models for environmental and agency-specific variables.
Other considerations when considering staffing levels may include the following:
- Types of calls for service:
What are the nature of the calls for service compared to the number of calls? For example, a high number of door alerts are easily resolved. A high number of disorderly calls resulting in transport to detox takes more time and resources. The other factor that must be considered is the expectation for on-view activity such as building checks.
- Expectations of the campus community:
Does the campus community expect high visibility, immediate response no matter what the nature of the call, a presence at campus meetings, traffic enforcement, and other such activities. How much uncommitted free time to you expect your officers to have?
- Composition of the campus community:
What makes up the campus community? On-campus residents versus no residential life; influence of surrounding neighborhood, medical campus, predominately undergraduate versus community college, four-year institution versus technical college, etc.
*For more information, see:
- 2011 IACLEA White Paper: Establishing Appropriate Staffing Levels for Campus Public Safety Departments
- COPS and Michigan State University
Students used as security officers can fill a number of roles that free up full-time staff. This especially important for departments with a small number of full-time personnel. Student guards may wear distinctive clothing (identifying them as student security) and are in direct radio contact with the campus law enforcement. They may also be required to consent to a background check and sign a confidentiality agreement.
Some of the roles student officers play include:
- Parking enforcement and parking lot surveillance
- Building security
- Safety escort services
- Traffic direction for special events
- General crime prevention
- Call dispatchers
Advantages with using student employees include a greater visible presence of campus safety employees, which generally helps to deter crime and improve the general feel of safety for the community. Departments may also be able to provide more services at a reasonable cost to the institution.
While student security guards can be a valuable asset, detractors may include the lack of prior experience and training for most student employees, as well as tension between school and work obligations. There is also always the concern for the safety and well-being of student employees; departments never want student employees to be put in the middle of a life-threating incident, such as an active shooter or other acts of violence.
Student employment at any university or college fulfills a temporary, yet essential, practice which provides skills for young adults who will soon be entering the workforce. Furthermore, the addition of supplemental employees during peak times assists in providing better customer care for our campus communities.
Students who work as Parking Enforcement Officials are given tasks which can provide many skills for those who may want to pursue a career in criminal justice or management. Parking Enforcement Officials must routinely use judgement and apply rules and regulations. Many students lack the ability to determine when regulations are being violated or broken. Building these skills can be accomplished in and out of the classroom. The experience provided in this type of student employment can facilitate skill-building and enhance judgement, increase decision making skills, allow for practice in applying deserving or reasonable actions for rule violations, and provide growth in comprehension of government processes. It is important to provide training for students who work in this area and provide them boundaries and expectations for their safety as well as the public's.
Student employment as Administrative Help in a Public Safety office can provide the department with many advantages. Keeping these students in an area of the department in which they may interact with other department employees becomes very beneficial to keep the department in-tune with the climate on campus. Students who work as the departments Administrative Help benefit from: developing telephone skills, having personal interaction with the public, learning various public safety terms used via the radio; as well as recording accurate information from telephone or in-person conversations.
Students who are successful in this role often have an interest in Public Safety and wish to build skills in a fast-paced environment. Very often confidential information may be disseminated through those who work as Administrative Help. A confidentiality statement should be reviewed with these students while they are in training. Adequate training should also be given to these students who may have emergency information reported to them during the course of their work.
How campus police respond to student hazing incidents vary somewhat based on a college or university’s student code of conduct process, as well as individual state laws. Often there is a parallel process in hazing investigations. The college or university Student Conduct Office conducts an investigation and the college or university police agency will conduct a criminal investigation based on their individual states criminal code. The student conduct investigation is protected under FERPA, the police investigation may very well be public information at the conclusion of the investigation, depending on specific state law.
With respect to body cameras, how common are they among campus police departments? What are the pros and cons?
Body Worn Cameras are continuing to increase in use and are becoming another effective tool for law enforcement agencies to monitor police activities and their campus communities. However, video and data storage in conjunction with public record requirements create challenges for many agencies.
The passage of the Violence Against Women Act's (VAWA) amendments in 2013 had an important impact on Clery Act reporting requirements. In addition to the established list of Clery crimes required to be reported, VAWA added the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Regarding the categories of bias used in reporting hate crimes, VAWA added the category of gender identity and separated national origin from ethnicity. Certain sex offenses reported to a Title IX official may also be Clery crimes, requiring evaluation for a timely warning. VAWA mandates prevention/ educational programming about domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking for both students and employees, and specifically prohibits an institution from including a victim's name in a timely warning. There are also mandates surrounding an institution's judicial processes for students and employees. All of the programming and judicial information is required to be included in an institution's Annual Safety and Security Report, which provides Clery information and statistics.
- 2015 IACLEA White Paper on Arming - Executive Summary
- 2011-2012 Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics Report
- 2011 IACLEA White Paper: Establishing Appropriate Staffing Levels for Campus Public Safety Departments
- COPS and Michigan State University
- Safe School Initiatives 2004 Report and Guide
- An offshoot of the SSI referred to as the bystander study
- FBI Study
- Center for Personal Protection & Safety
- FEMA Emergency Management Institute, IS-907: Active Shooter: What to do? On-line course