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September 20, 2013

University to introduce sworn peace officers this fall

This October, the University of Rochester will have a mixed force of sworn and non-sworn officers. Sworn peace officers will have enhanced abilities and tools, adding to the safety, enforcement, and investigative services at the University.

Additionally, to more accurately reflect the purpose and services of the department, the University’s Department of Security Services has changed its name to the Department of Public Safety, effective Sept. 1.

The first group of 25 active peace officers completed 400 hours of required instruction and other training, a five-month process that began in March. The officers will be recognized in a ceremony this fall.

University peace officers can make felony, misdemeanor, or other breach of peace arrests based on probable cause, and can make mental hygiene arrests—an authority that promotes quick medical attention to those in need. They can conduct proper warrantless searches; have the power to take safe custody of firearms; and will have access to state and federal criminal information systems to assist with ongoing investigations.

University peace officers will not carry firearms but will carry pepper gel and batons as defensive tools.

Approximately 50 staff members of Public Safety’s total 134-member force are expected to complete New York’s campus peace officer academy program to become sworn officers. To view a Q&A on University peace officer status, visit: http://public safety.

“This important step that will enhance the ability of the department to maintain a safe campus environment was made possible by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and our area legislators who supported the peace officer legislation,” says Ron Paprocki, senior vice president for administration and finance and CFO.

In December 2010, President Joel Seligman asked a commission to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the University’s safety efforts. The members of the commission determined that while there had not been a significant increase in the number or severity of crimes on campus, there had been an increase in the number of calls for service, including those with a greater potential for confrontation.

After several months of review, the commission released several recommendations to President Seligman, with the most important relating to the status of University security staff and to the safety equipment available to them. Peace officer status was pursued and on Dec. 17, 2012, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation allowing for this expanded authority at the University.

Throughout the summer, the Department of Public Safety has worked with area law enforcement agencies to develop memoranda of understanding on how the peace officer status will complement their policing and investigations.

“Our force will now be able to respond more effectively and efficiently to situations on our campuses and properties as a result of the peace officer training,” said Walter Mauldin, director of the Department of Public Safety. “This benefits not only the University community, but also to our neighboring agencies as we become a stronger partner with them.”

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