Court Cases Are Being Dismissed Because North Dakota Campus Cops Aren’t Following the Law

A little over a year ago the North Dakota Supreme Court handed down an opinion in Kroschel v. Levi which stated that state law prohibits campus police officers from patrolling off campus.

You’d think that would have stopped campus cops, then, from patrolling off campus. Only it hasn’t. Since then many cases have been dismissed because they were initiated by campus police patrolling off campus.

Back in February University of North Dakota Campus Police Chief Eric Plummer told lawmakers that DUI offenders and underage drinkers are going free because of the Supreme Court’s decision.

“Prior to the decision, we regularly patrolled the areas in and around campus and kept many DUI, property crime, and drugs offenders off of our campus property,” Plummer told a meeting of the interim Higher Education Committee via letter. “The limits posed by the Kroschel decision have restricted our officers to the point that DUI offenders are not being prosecuted once caught because of jurisdictional concerns. I fear that this is creating an atmosphere where a tragic situation is just around the corner.”

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…as recently as this month cases are being dismissed because campus cops are not following the law.[/mks_pullquote]

But are cases not being prosecuted because of jurisdictional concerns? Or is it because the campus police are ignoring the law?

I put in an open records request to the UND cops for the cases Plummer was referring to and got back a total of 13 which had been dismissed because campus cops were off campus.

That was in February. Yet as recently as this month cases are being dismissed because campus cops are not following the law.

On July 19 the Cass County District Court suppressed evidence in City of Fargo v. Solum, a DUI case, because the traffic stop was made by a campus cop patrolling city streets. The case was also dismissed. You can read the order to suppress and dismiss below. The reasoning was straight forward.

Campus cops, per state law upheld by the state Supreme Court in Kroschel, cannot patrol off campus.

“The district court’s decision is just more than one year after the North Dakota Supreme Court unequivocally confirmed that the legislative limitation on campus police jurisdiction is unambiguously limited to campus property,” defense attorney Mark Friese of the Vogel Law Firm in Fargo, a critic of campus policing, told me about the case.

“I have heard anecdotes from other lawyers and students, indicating that campus police continue to regularly patrol and conduct traffic stops on city streets,” he added.

Why are campus cops so adamant about patrolling off campus? Part of it is likely the sort of rank bureaucratic territorialism that’s common in government. I’ve yet to meet a government worker not interested in expanding their little fiefdoms.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]One question lawmakers should ask those who defend the existence of campus cops is why, if sworn officers are so necessary to the safety and security of the campuses, those officers spend so much of their time patrolling for crimes off campus?[/mks_pullquote]

Another part, one that’s specific to the NDSU cops, is likely revenue. Because in addition to defying state law, and the state Supreme Court, NDSU cops continue to cite their cases into the Fargo municipal courts which they do not have the legal authority to do.

Per the state constitution, all fines from state district courts go into the Common Schools Trust Fund. But in municipal courts like Fargo’s the money goes into the city’s general fund.

That’s not legal, Friese says. “Campus police are not city officers, and have no authority to enforce municipal ordinances.  At least the City of Grand Forks recognizes this point, because UND campus police cases are cited into district court,” he told me noting that the Solum case was initially in Fargo’s municipal court but was transferred to the Cass County court before being dismissed.

“The practice of citing campus violations into Fargo city court shifts proceeds of citations and fines away from the common school fund into the Fargo general fund,” Friese said.

So in additional to territorialism there is a monetary reason too for the Fargo folks.

I suspect in the upcoming regular legislative session, which begins in January, we will see legislation to let campus cops patrol off campus. But that would be a mistake. We need to consider why campuses can’t be patrolled by the municipal, county, and state law enforcement agencies which already exist.

One question lawmakers should ask those who defend the existence of campus cops is why, if sworn officers are so necessary to the safety and security of the campuses, those officers spend so much of their time patrolling for crimes off campus?

The honest answer is probably because they don’t really have enough to do on campus.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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