No changes planned for policing Cincinnati campuses

As college police departments have grown, the power to patrol off-campus has sparked debates in lieu of the recent OIS

By Ken McCall and Josh Sweigart
Dayton Daily News

CINCINNATI, Ohio  —  Area universities have no plans to change how they police their campuses as the University of Cincinnati looks to scale back its role and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters argues campus cops should turn in their badges.

"I just don't think a university should be in the policing business," he said at a press conference Wednesday announcing a UC police officer will face murder charges for shooting unarmed motorist Samuel DuBose. "I think the Cincinnati Police Department should be (policing) the entire campus."

Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell passes a sign that reads
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell passes a sign that reads "INDICT THE LYING OFFICER" during a demonstration outside the Hamilton County Courthouse July 29. (AP Image)

Former UC police officer Ray Tensing killed DuBose after a traffic stop about a half mile from UC's campus.

As college police departments have grown over the past half century, they have been given the power to patrol off-campus — a trend, experts say, that picked up as urban neighborhoods declined.

The University of Dayton does not routinely patrol outside the campus boundaries but has the authority to take police action anywhere in the cities of Dayton or Oakwood. Meanwhile, Wright State intervenes in cases involving an "egregious" offense, said Seth Bauguess, a spokesman for the university.

In most off-campus situations, Wright State police call Fairborn police or the Greene County sheriff's office, Bauguess said. For incidents that start on-campus, a Wright State officer can follow the driver more than a mile away from the university.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said universities insist on having their own police offices to protect students against severe treatment by outside departments.

"I think the primary philosophy has always been that universities want the leeway to be able to treat incidents on campus as disciplinary rather than criminal matters," he said.

LoMonte said university police — especially at private universities — often don't operate with the same transparency as city departments.

"I don't know that I'd go as far as to say universities shouldn't have police at all, because there's nothing to say the surrounding city is a more sophisticated operation with more competent people in charge," he said. "As long as there is a professional level of recruitment, training and supervision, I don't think there's anything wrong with campus police."

Campus police departments have been around for more than 100 years, with Yale University being the first to have one. But the practice didn't become widespread until the 1960s.

"What really fueled campus police departments was the unrest during the late '60s and early '70s, including the Kent State Massacre," said Bill Taylor, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Campus Crime
How often university police respond to off-campus crime varies, according to crime logs kept under the federal Clery Act. WSU police went off-campus twice this month for a theft call and disorderly conduct. Miami officers go off-campus more often, responding to car crashes, issuing traffic citations and helping Oxford police with calls.

Oxford and Miami University had the same number of people with the title "police officer" last year, according payroll records. The average gross pay was $74,010 for Oxford officers and $67,923 for Miami officers.

Miami has 24 sworn officers, which is a smaller force than in previous years because of state budget cuts.

"I would put our officers up against any police officers in terms of training and professionalism," said Miami University police chief John McCandless, noting other jurisdictions lean on his staff for help with forensic evidence and a bomb dog.

Several campus departments have outfitted their officers with body cameras.

McCandless said Miami needs its own police force because it has a larger daytime population than the city of Oxford, and deals with issues others don't.

"I can tell you that working on a university campus with alcohol-related stuff, with issues that 18-,19-,20-year-olds have, is unlike when I worked for the sheriff's office up in Michigan or when I worked for the police department up in Michigan," he said. "It's just completely different."

The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report alleged crime, arrests or disciplinary actions on campus. The statistics during the 2011 through 2013 calendar years, analyzed by this newspaper, show liquor violations, drug violations and burglaries dominate the caseload at area schools.

A total of 877 crimes were reported during those years at UD, WSU, Miami, UC and Wittenberg University.

Violent crimes are rare on campuses, according to FBI crime statistics, though some universities choose not to report their numbers. In 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, four area schools — Central State, Miami, Wright State and Sinclair Community College — reported a combined total of 15 violent crimes.

Police officers at colleges and universities in Ohio have the same basic training qualifications of city and county law enforcement officers, though Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and others have criticized current standards as inadequate.

DeWine's office sets standards for law enforcement training through the Ohio Police Officer Training Academy.

In the wake of deadly shootings of John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, a state task force was formed that recommended increased training for officers across Ohio.

Basic training for police officers takes 616 hours. Pending changes in state law would increase that requirement to 650 hours and require for a first time a high school diploma.

The state also is increasing ongoing training requirements, with a focus on community-police relations, quick decision-making under stress and working with people with mental health problems.

Annual training required to maintain certification is going from four hours to 11 hours in 2016, and will go to 20 hours in 2017.

Eliminating Police
A few experts this newspaper interviewed questioned the rationale of eliminating campus police, a decision that could put a college's policing needs in the hands of an outside department that may not be able to afford the additional expense.

"Needless to say, we think the situation in Cincinnati is tragic, we feel for the family, but it's wrong to take this particular situation and generalize about all campus law enforcement," Taylor said.

Deters' remarks to eliminate campus police agencies drew a terse response from the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio. Besides being disappointed by some of his statements, the group said Deters "disparaged" all of UC's police officers, who are certified state police officers similar to municipal police officers and sheriff's deputies.

"We understand that politicians often make statements meant for political impact and aimed at public opinion," the FOP of Ohio noted on its website. "That appears to be what this prosecutor was doing. But his remarks should not have disparaged all university police or the thousands of officers who follow the law by conducting traffic stops for minor misdemeanor violations."

They group also implied Tensing conducted a legal traffic stop of DuBose since his car was missing a front license plate.

"Ohio's law enforcement officers have found enforcing the front license plate law to be invaluable in solving crimes, ranging from robberies and murders," according to their statement. "Fleeing felons, wanted fugitives, even terrorists have been caught because of traffic stops for minor vehicle code violations."

Copyright 2015 the Dayton Daily News 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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