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Bill would expand powers of campus police officers

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Police officers at Indiana colleges and universities could have the same authority as city and county officers under a bill introduced in the General Assembly.

Republican Rep. Randy Truitt of West Lafayette says lawmakers need to remove jurisdictional obstacles that prevent local law enforcement officials from tapping resources available within university police departments.

Indiana law limits police powers for campus officers to their respective schools. That means campus officers can't stop an impaired driver off campus or loan resources such as drug-sniffing dogs to city and county departments without fearing it could jeopardize a case, police officials say.

Purdue University Police Chief John Cox said eliminating those barriers is a matter of common sense.

"I'm a sworn officer, I graduated from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy," Cox told the Journal & Courier. "If I'm working and going down I-65 and get behind a driver who I suspect is impaired, I need to be able to pull that person over."

Purdue has an agreement with other Tippecanoe County law enforcement agencies that gives its officers arrest and other police powers beyond campus. But Cox said the campus department had to deny a Montgomery County request to borrow the department's narcotics-sniffing dog because if an arrest were made based on what the dog found, it could have harmed the prosecutor's case.

Cox and West Lafayette Police Chief Jason Dombkowski said the ability to share resources is crucial in times of leaner resources.

"We need that cooperation because we do not have the number of police officers that the FBI recommends," Dombkowski said. "We're fortunate to have another 40 officers in the middle of our city."

Truitt's bill is scheduled to get a hearing Tuesday, as is a similar measure filed in the Senate.

"I think this is a really positive thing because it's going to enhance public safety," Truitt said. "It'll get rid of any boundary disputes, jurisdictional disputes — any ambiguity."

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  • Dangerous Idea
    Here's what might happen if this gets passed.
    Smaller towns will eliminate police officers and rely on the university police to cover the neighborhoods around the school.
    That means the college or university will be paying, through student fees for police coverage that the taxpayers are already paying for.
    Imagine North Manchester, Indiana saying hey we can eliminate the third shift police officer and save $30,000 a year. Manchester College will then cover for us. The MC students win the Quiddich championships and celebrations get out of hand but the police are off in town writing up a lost 76 year-old Alzheimers patient. Both important for police presence, but which one gets dropped or delayed? I am sure you can come up with better scenarios, but you get the idea.

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