The North Dakota Supreme Court today handed down a significant ruling in a DUI case today which limits the jurisdiction of campus police officers, and may call into question why the universities have their own police departments in the first place.
You can read the full opinion below, but basically the defendant in the case was arrested for driving under the influence by a North Dakota State University campus police officer. At no time was the defendant on the NDSU campus.
The suspension of the defendant’s driving privileges was challenged on the basis that the campus cop didn’t have jurisdiction off campus. Law enforcement countered by saying that the NDSU campus cops can operate off campus under a memorandum of understanding signed between NDSU, the Fargo Police Department, and the City of Fargo.
Today the state Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, agreed with the defendant saying that the MOU doesn’t cut the mustard. Again, all the legalese is below, but this is a pretty important ruling for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s a major blow to the idea that our state universities are little cities unto themselves. The court specifically held that the universities are institutions and not political subdivisions. That might help put some of these universities, where bureaucratic empire building has become the norm, back into their boxes.
Second, this calls into question why the universities have their own police forces in the first place. Especially given that, at NDSU specifically, the existence of a campus police force is abused. NDSU President Dean Bresciani, like President Joe Chapman before him, has used a campus law enforcement officer as his own personal chauffeur.
That’s a pretty egregious abuse of taxpayer resources, and probably not something that’s likely to happen if the campus police at NDSU were under the jurisdiction of the Fargo Police Department.
Which, frankly, they should be. It seems more than a little redundant to operate law enforcement agencies on campus that are separate from the law enforcement agencies which exist in university communities.
But, again, what seems more important to university officials than efficiency and sound policy is the chance to be the monarchs of their own little kingdoms.