North Dakota's Legislature Should Close Down Campus Police Departments


Earlier this year the North Dakota Supreme Court found that it is illegal for campus police departments to be patrolling off campus. The jurisdiction for campus cops is the campus, the court ruled.

This has created some consternation in some quarters. In Fargo, for instance, campus cops were spending a significant amount of time patrolling off campus and producing revenue from the citations they wrote for the City of Fargo even though campus cops are paid for by state, and not municipal, tax dollars.

Now the North Dakota Chiefs of Police want the Legislature to make it legal for campus cops to patrol off campus. “Campus police officials believe prohibiting campus police from arresting drunken drivers near universities puts the public at risk,” reports Emily Welker for the Fargo Forum.

But rather than expanding the jurisdiction of campus police to off-campus areas, I think lawmakers ought to consider closing down campus police forces altogether.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Rather than having a separate police force for each campus, why not have a municipal or county law enforcement agency task personnel to patrol the campuses?[/mks_pullquote]

Here’s why.

First, campus police forces are redundant. They are tasked with patrolling tiny areas within the jurisdictions of existing law enforcement agencies. Campus police forces aren’t just patrol offices. They have become full-blown police departments complete with the command structure and infrastructure requirements of any department. Why do we need to reinvent the wheel for campus police? Rather than having a separate police force for each campus, why not have a municipal or county law enforcement agency task personnel to patrol the campuses?

We could move the necessary personnel from the existing campus police forces into the existing sheriff’s or city police departments, and eliminate the redundant positions. Not only would that create a more efficient situation, but it would also address the second problem with campus police forces which is the conflict of interest issue.

Crime on campus – particular the issue of sexual assault on campus – is a major concern these days. One aspect of that issue is how institutions of higher education adjudicate accusations of crime on campus. When the police force tasked with investigating crimes, and making arrests, also works for the campus administration there’s a problem.

Better those cases be handled by law enforcement departments which aren’t under the control of university administrators.

There are a lot of reasons people will fight to keep the status quo, from cushy arrangements for revenue from citations to the typical sort of bureaucratic territorialism that permeates government. But a better situation both from the perspective of saving taxpayer dollars and ensuring sound law enforcement practices on campus would be to simply put the campuses exclusively under the jurisdiction of city or county law enforcement officials.