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Shippensburg University officials so far uncertain how new law will affect university police

Written by Dale Heberling, Public Opinion Online | Oct 7, 2015 4:00 PM
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(Shippensburg) -- Shippensburg University officials and police authorities are sifting through the details of new legislation that may affect where university police have arrest powers.

Senate Bill 678, introduced by Sen. Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County in April, is now Act 41 of 2015. Gov. Tom Wolf signed it into law last week. It clarifies where campus police officers of the 14 state-owned universities, including SU, have arrest powers.

SU spokesman Pete Gigliotti said Monday, "We are looking at the law to see how it affects us."

Smucker's legislation stems from an October 2014 court case in which the state Superior Court determined that campus police did not have jurisdiction on a road passing through a university campus. As a result, a DUI 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."

Following Wolf's signing of the bill, Smucker said, "As yesterday's most recent school shooting reminded us, even college campuses are not immune to violent crime," Smucker said after the governor signed the bill. "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."

Gigliotti and Lt. Gary Carter of Pennsylvania State Police, Carlisle, said they are just beginning to examine the specifics.

Gigliotti said all of SU's streets are owned by the university, but there may still be a specific gray area. He pointed to property owned by the university that is on the opposite side of Route 696 from SU.

"We don't have a (borough or township) street that runs right through campus," Gigliotti said, "but we're looking at what this means for Route 696, where we have property on the other side of the road."

He said SU's legal team and police administrators will do a "comprehensive evaluation" of the law's impact.

Pennsylvania's 14 state owned schools include Millersville, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

Campus police at the schools are certified in the same manner as state and local police.

Smucker notes, "Campus police receive the same training as municipal police officers and have been exercising these powers and responsibilities for decades. 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."

SU police typically provide back-up for state and local police in the Shippensburg area.

"When we call, they come," said Borough of Shippensburg Police Chief Fred Scott, "and they keep us informed of anything they observe."

Dale Heberlig can be reached at 717-262-4811.


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

Published in Adams County, News

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