HARRISBURG (Oct. 2, 2015) – State Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) said students and the public on college campuses will be better protected under a proposal signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf yesterday.
Senate Bill 678, introduced by Sen. Smucker in April and now Act 41 of 2015, clarifies where campus police officers employed by the 14 state-owned universities have arrest powers.
“As yesterday’s most recent school shooting reminded us, even college campuses are not immune to violent crime,” Smucker said. “Thanks to the advice and support of so many school and public safety leaders, this new law clarifies that campus police have arrest powers in certain areas that until recently were considered gray areas under the law.”
In an October 2014 court case, the Superior Court determined that a road running through a university campus was not technically “campus grounds,” so campus police did not have clear arrest powers along that stretch. As a result of this determination, a drunk driving conviction was overturned.
“Campus police officers should be able to act on violations of the law on the roads that run through campus,” Smucker said. “The court decision effectively stripped the campus police of arrest powers on the college’s walkways and roads, creating a dangerous loophole that could potentially erode the safety of students, employees and visitors.”
Act 41 ensures that campus police officers employed by the state-owned universities can make arrests on the highways, traffic ways, bike paths and pedestrian walkways that traverse or abut lands and buildings owned, controlled, leased or managed by the universities of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE). These duties are already possessed by municipal police officers and state-related university police officers.
“Campus police receive the same training as municipal police officers and have been exercising these powers and responsibilities for decades,” Smucker said. “They are highly trained and have a long history of working cooperatively with local police forces from surrounding areas in a common effort to keep everyone safe.”
The 14 SSHE universities include Millersville, along with Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities.