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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: February 26, 2015 02:49 PM
From: Senator Lloyd K. Smucker
To: All Senate members
Subject: Arrest Powers of Campus Police
Please consider joining me in supporting legislation to clarify the arrest powers and jurisdiction of campus police officers employed by our 14 state-owned universities.

This legislation is needed in the wake of an October 2014 Superior Court decision, which affected the jurisdictional authority of campus police.

In that decision, the Superior Court determined that a public road running through a state-owned university campus was not part of the primary jurisdiction of university campus police, concluding that the road did not fall within the statutory definition of campus “grounds.” As a result, the court held that a campus police officer had no authority to stop a driver for a Motor Vehicle Code violation, and the driver’s arrest was overturned, despite a field sobriety test and chemical breath test which revealed that the driver’s blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit.

As a direct consequence of this decision, a campus police officer’s action to stop a suspicious vehicle traveling on a road through campus would be considered illegal. This decision has the potential to further strain already overburdened municipal police departments in college towns and jeopardize campus safety for college students and educators.

Legislation for which I would appreciate your co-sponsorship would amend Section XX of the Public School Code to ensure that state-owned university campus police officers have the power to exercise their authority on campus grounds. These duties are already possessed by municipal police officers under the Municipal Police Jurisdiction Act, and by state-related university police officers. These powers would apply on campus grounds, including highways, roadways, and traffic ways that traverse or abut lands and buildings owned, controlled, leased or managed by the universities of the State System of Higher Education.

Should you have any questions regarding this measure, please contact Kelly Phenicie (kphenicie@pasen.gov).

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue.

Introduced as SB678