Every student has a similar reaction whenever they hear the familiar, firm knock on the door accompanied by a bellowing voice shouting “university police! They respond with irritation.
But with college crimes tending to be outlandish and unique, separate police forces are necessary for college campuses across the United States.
However, students may not realize the tasks of university police involve more than just breaking up ragers.
Tyrone Parham, police chief at Penn State University, has been working at the Penn State University Police Department for 23 years and began when he was just a student at the university, becoming immersed in the university’s culture.
Parham affirmed that aside from being proactive with visibility and law enforcement, university police focus on prevention by educating the public on being victims of crimes, alcohol awareness, public drunkenness, DUI’s, and sexual assault awareness by going into classrooms and talking with parents.
“All of our respective agencies throughout the country are all about prevention,” Parham said.
Moreover, Parham said he likes to call university police staff “walking information booths,” because of the influx of new people who are not yet acquainted with directions or living away from family.
“We consider ourselves service oriented,” he said. “If you’re locked out of your residence hall or need to jump start your vehicle, that’s something we can help with.”
Additionally, he said that because of incoming freshman transitioning to a parent-less lifestyle, the department indirectly does a bit of “parent reeducation,” outlining boundaries and laws.
Nevertheless, Parham described the job as a challenge because of the relationship with the students.
“We once got a call from an RA about an out-of-control party, and one of the students tied sheets and tried to climb down from the 6th floor window to avoid the police,” he said. “It was a traumatic fall, but fortunately he only sustained injuries.”
Jennifer Horvath, public information officer at the police department of safety at Syracuse University, says that there is a misconception among students and campus police, leading to the under appreciation of university cops.
“Some students think they’re just security guards,” she said. “They don’t understand that our officers have the some powers as city cops.”
At Syracuse, as well as many other universities, the university police undergo the same training as city police, but differ from them because they have limited jurisdiction in the sense that they are restricted to the college and its bordering streets.
But students need to remember that it is often better to have a drunken encounter with university police than any other police department.
“Usually if you’re ticketed by city cops, the punishment is external and you have to go to court,” said Horvath. “If it’s by campus police, you deal with the Office of Judicial Affairs and might have to write an essay or sit through alcohol counseling.”
So for all those incoming freshmen, university police aren’t the complete buzz kill students tend to believe.