Private colleges, public safety: few disclosure requirements for campus police

Source: Shawn Musgrave, Muckrock, September 15, 2015

…Campus cops are empowered as “special state police officers,” a category which also includes police employed by hospitals and railroads. As of June 2015, there were 1,500 special state police officers across Massachusetts, the vast majority of whom work at colleges and universities. .. Sworn campus police may carry weapons, make arrests and use force, just like any other officer. Statute grants special state police “the same power to make arrests as regular police officers” for crimes committed on property owned or used by their institutions. … Hundreds of campus police are thus full officers of the law. Yet special state police are exempt from the Massachusetts public records law, which requires government agencies to release most documents upon request, including police reports. … In June, after the shooting of a knife-wielding suspect by Massachusetts state police near its campus, Boston University police rejected a request for reports filed by its own responding officers. Incident reports are typically public records when completed by municipal or state police. A BUPD lieutenant responded that his department would release the report only under subpoena. … Massachusetts case law supports this interpretation. In a suit brought by Harvard’s student newspaper, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled in January 2006 that the public records statute does not cover private university police.