Is this Cop Really a Cop – Attorney Bruce Alan Block
In the wake of the tragic events that occurred at Virginia Tech and other places around the country, colleges and universities throughout the country have beefed up campus security. But as will be explained, not every uniformed person you see walking around your college campus with a badge is a police officer vested with the full force of the law. Some of these individuals are hired for insurance reasons and are there to protect college or university property by patrolling the campus facilities to check for fire, malicious mischief (a/k/a campus pranks), theft, or vandalism. Typically these security personnel are not empowered to enforce or uphold the law. But you must BE CAREFUL, because you might be dealing with a honest-to-goodness real police officer.
Established Police or Public Safety Officers
Many public colleges and universities in Michigan have established police or public safety services. For example, Grand Valley State, Michigan State, Western, and Ferris each has police officers that have been certified by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards. This means that they have the same authority as a state police officer. Even Grand Rapids Community College's campus police are fully certified police officers. It is important to recognize that when you interact with Campus Police, you are dealing with someone who has the full authority of the law.
Private Licensed Security Guards.
There is, however, a middle ground. While some colleges do not have certified police officers, the uniformed officers you see on their campuses might be more than just a shopping mall security officer. if your campus has private security guards, licensed under Michigan law, those security guards may have the same authority as a police officer if they have been deputized by the local sheriff department. Although it’s uncommon for a campus to have private licensed security guards, you should still be aware of this possibility.
Most small colleges around West Michigan have neither police forces nor licensed private security guards. Aquinas, Calvin College, and Cornerstone University do not have certified police officers or deputized private security guards. The uniformed officers at smaller schools are typically denoted as “Campus Safety,” not to be confused with public safety officers who are real police officers.
Michigan Law limits the authority of a Campus Security person. These security persons can only make arrests in three situations: when they witness commission of a felony, when the real police ask for their help, in shoplifting cases (retail fraud). What this means is that the Campus Safety personnel Do Not have the authority of police officers.
Many private colleges ensure your compliance with the Student Code of Conduct by utilizing undeputized, unlicensed campus safety persons. They do not have much legal authority. Essentially they are administrative officers — Not police officers. Think of them as “hall monitors,” but with fancier uniforms. They can enforce your school’s student code of conduct and administrative regulations, but they cannot enforce the law. Of course they are a phone call away from the real police.
Failing to comply with the demands of a Campus Safety person may subject you to academic sanctions and discipline, but you are under no legal obligation to obey them. They cannot detain you against your will, force you to take a breathalyzer (PBT), search you, nor physically arrest you (unless they see you commit a felony). Any such conduct by Campus Safety or "Campus Security" is unlawful. Additionally, nonconsensual physical contact is a violation of your rights.
If you think your rights have been violated or Campus Safety has overstepped its authority, take the time to get experienced legal advice from a knowledgeable attorney. Contact Grand Rapids, Michigan Attorney Bruce Alan Block at (616) 676-8770. We are located on Cascade Road, just miles away from many colleges and universities in West Michigan
Serving Students throughout West Michigan with their Legal Issues.
Bruce Alan Block, PLC
Attorney and Counselor at Law
1155 East Paris Ave. SE Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Phone: (616) 676-8770
Serving Clients throughout Western Michigan, in Grand Rapids, Ada, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Cascade, Wyoming, Byron Center, Forest Hills, Lowell, Caledonia, Cascade, Rockford, Holland, Grand Haven, Hastings, Hudsonville, Grandville, Kent County, Barry County, Ottawa County, Newaygo County, Muskegon County, Allegan County, Ionia County.
We represent college students from Calvin College, Aquinas, Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University, Central University. Ferris State University, University of Michigan, and Western Michigan University.