Why do some American universities have actual campus police, with guns, while other American universities have "public safety" officers who don't have guns?

For instance, Georgia Tech and the University of Chicago have campus police.

Is it determined by the level of imminent danger that surrounds the campus?

  • Possible duplicate academia.stackexchange.com/questions/99763/…
    – StrongBad
    Apr 6 '19 at 1:25
  • This can get complicated. At the University of Michigan, there is a university police department ("Officers have full authority to investigate, search, arrest and use reasonable force, if necessary, to protect people and property" according to a university web site), which is part of a Division of Public Safety and Security. Apr 6 '19 at 14:14

In the US, most state universities will probably have police, but it is a state matter so it varies from state to state. Private institutions probably don't have police, but still need security for students and otherwise. Private institutions could, in theory, contract with local police for coverage (some places) but can't form their own police forces.

At state universities it is the state that is responsible for safety and security and it is probably cheaper/easier to integrate training, etc. if they are police. They also can speak and act with the authority of the state if they are sworn officers. And use deadly force, of course.

In New York, for example, the police on state campuses are separately organized from the town police where the campus is, but they have all police powers both on and off campus. They carry guns, tasers, etc. and wear bulletproof vests when on patrol. I think they have special training so that they respond more appropriately to young people than municipal police might.

But many of the campuses are in small towns, even villages, in which the overall danger/threat is minimal.

It is probably more of an administrative matter, combined with the paranoia of politicians who don't want to be blamed if something really bad happens and they can't claim to have taken all possible precautions.

  • 1
    MIT has campus police from what I remember. Apr 6 '19 at 1:17
  • 1
    @darijgrinberg So does Harvard, BU, and Northeastern, UPenn and other private institutions, see Wikipedia for an extensive list.
    – Anyon
    Apr 6 '19 at 1:26
  • This is just wrong, both MIT and UPENN have accredited police departments. As I say here UPENN has police and security and other things.
    – StrongBad
    Apr 6 '19 at 1:26
  • Yes, there are exceptions to the general rule. Up until the 1960's, police on campus were probably rare. There was controversy when it started to change.
    – Buffy
    Apr 6 '19 at 10:21

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