Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are Public Safety's Officers "Real" Officers?

We get this question often. The short answer is yes. There are many types of police, public safety and security departments at colleges, dependent upon the range of services each college chooses to or is able to provide for their community.

Private colleges and universities in Massachusetts can elect, as Mount Holyoke College has, to have their officers sworn as Special State Police Officers under Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 22C s. 63. This law allows duly appointed officers the same power to make arrests as municipal police officers for any criminal offense committed in or upon lands or structures owned, used or occupied by such college.

Hiring and re-appointment of our officers is governed by the Massachusetts Code of Massachusetts Regulations, and hold our officers to a very high standard of training and re-training. For example, an officer can not be appointed as a sworn officer on our campus unless s/he has a Full-Time Academy OR a part-time academy PLUS a minimum of an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice.

This standard includes hiring and on-going training for our part-time officers who work an average of once a week. This affects our recruitment efforts; a new part-time academy graduate can work for a municipality but is not eligible to work for our department. However, when they have completed the additional requirements, we are able to hire more experienced and educated officers - if they have not already developed in-roads to a municipal department. (Though we personally believe this is the best community to work in, with more opportunities to learn and to work with a diverse and active student and employee population!)

Officers, once appointed, can make full custody arrests for violations of Massachusetts and Federal Law. Of course, this is a small percentage of what our officers do - officers spend much more time patrolling the campus, investigating incidents (both criminal and non-criminal), providing services such as medical transportation, lockouts, responding to medical emergencies, and many other responsibilities. But when a crime occurs and a suspect is identified, officers are there if needed to make the arrest and see the case through the judicial system.

If you would like to see how much officers do during the year, visit our web site and go to the Publications page. Check out our annual report. We expect to publish our 2007 annual report this July. You can see a daily accounting of incidents reported to the department by visiting our daily logs, or see each call officers answer by checking our dispatch logs.

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