First off, I want to make this clear: I am in no way demeaning campus police officers. God knows we could’ve used more of them at Virginia Tech. And I’m also not insinuating that campus cops are somehow less worthy than regular police officers. They just have different jobs and jurisdictions.
That said, SB 554 is completely out-of-bounds.
This bill, proposed by Republican Charlie Dean (who has some other questionable ideas this session), would give special powers to state university police officers to make arrests off-campus. And I’m not just talking about arresting some guy with a gun across the street from the school — which we could all agree makes sense — but also more simple offenses like traffic violations.
Already, some city and county law enforcement agencies have “mutual aid agreements” with campus police that give them some authority outside of campus. For example, I’ve seen USF police at DUI checkpoints along Fowler Avenue working alongside the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department.
But this law would allow campus police to conduct speed trap operations by themselves off campus. The law would also give them the authority to, say, raid a party at an apartment complex near the campus. Critics of this law should ask: what happens when campus police are spread thin around a neighborhood and not patrolling the university?
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