Courtesy of J. Adam Fenster, UR Photographer

In an effort to enhance the strength of campus security, 25 UR security officers are working towards designation as peace officers, government-recognized positions authorized by New York State. Their jurisdiction is determined in collaboration with local police departments.

To become peace officers, also called sworn officers, these 25 individuals will undergo a five-month training program. Following the program’s completion, they will be authorized to make arrests, access police criminal file systems, conduct warrantless searches, and repossess weapons. The officers will not carry guns, but they will have batons and pepper foam.

Essentially, peace officers will serve as the middle ground between Rochester police officers and UR Security.

The decision to train UR Security as peace officers was made after discussion by a Security Commission that President Joel Seligman convened in December 2010. Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance Ronald Paprocki chaired the commission.

“The central recommendation [of the Security Commission] was to take steps to implement sworn officer status in a mixed system of sworn and unsworn officers,” Paprocki said in an email. “This was seen as an important step to enhancing safety on campus. We want to have a sufficient number of sworn officers to provide prompt response around the clock.”

Other changes adopted at the Security Commission’s recommendation include better in-service programs, streamlined communication and administrative processes, and a change to the safe ride program that will not take officers from their patrol duties.

After the commission’s recommendation, UR Government Relations staff pursued outside support.

“The University consulted with local law enforcement, and then with the entire local Senate and Assembly delegation to indicate an interest in pursuing this,” Public Information Coordinator Sarah Miller said. “[UR] worked most closely with Senator [James] Alesi and Assemblyman [Harry] Bronson since they both directly represented  [UR’s] River Campus at the time and both were happy to support and sponsor legislation.”

According to Deputy Director of Security Mark Fischer, 85 to 90 percent of UR’s patrolling security officers applied for peace officer training. 25 were selected, and UR has authorized the selection of a total of 40 members. UR’s security division includes approximately 120 individuals, but that figure includes support personnel and non-patrol staff.

UR will spend approximately $80,000 over the next two years to train the 40 individuals. Other than a badge and slightly different uniform, the new peace officers will not be very distinguishable from the current security staff.

“They are not going to deal with the students here in a different way,” Fischer said. “In other words, if a student is caught drinking underage they will still be referred to the Dean’s Office. The main difference is if something exigent happens. Then we’ll be able to act immediately and make an arrest.”

Paprocki noted that the new authority these officers will have is similar to the authority of officers at other campuses.

“There are a lot of things the security division does here to protect the area and this will allow us to do that better,” Fischer concluded.

The use of peace officers will be re-evaluated in two years to determine their effectiveness and the future of the program.

Remus is a member of the class of 2016.

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