I read this question where a teaching assistant asks how to deal with an aggressive student.

In her answer, the user Nicole Hamilton gives advice to call campus security. Now, in my naive foreign thinking, whenever the word "campus security" came up, I imagined this to be similar to a discotheque's security people: a single strong person (or a team) who would be in the university building during its opening hours, helping de-escalate conflicts and throwing out aggressive people.

However, the user "apparente001" advises the OP to "do not hesitate to call campus security for an escort while leaving your building at night" (in a comment). This suggests that campus security is more: A university employee apparently may call these security people at any time to any (reasonable?) place to escort them (I assume, provided that some incident happened like the one described by OP). From the Wikipedia article, I understand campus police (is this the same as campus security?) to be police officers who only serve in university.

However (at least in my country), I could not simply call the police to escort me at night when something "vague" like the incident described in the question happened. (I do not want to say the the incident is not serious - however, I doubt a police officer would escort me at night if I told them that very incident).

So I take it that campus security/campus police must be something different: an organisation any university employee can call at any time. Can you tell me more about this concept?

In particular, the question which interest me are:

  1. Is campus police/campus security the same concept?

  2. What exactly does campus police/campus security for university employees? When can they be called and for what purpose?

  3. Can university students (if they are not at the university building) also call them? If yes, to what extend do they help them?

While the original question specifies no country, I have the feeling that the OP and the user "apparente001" are talking about US or Canada. (I may be wrong, through.) Therefore, I also would be (mainly) interested in information about these countries.

  • 4
    note: Campus security will usually only escort you to your car or maybe a near by bus stop. Depending on how busy they are will determine how long they can wait with you. We also have mini-vans at night to take students, staff, or etc to their cars if they call and ask for it.
    – cybernard
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 22:38
  • 4
    What I've seen in the US: Campus security can escort you at night to prevent problems; they can give you a jump-start if your battery is dead; they can use a tool to open your car if you locked your keys inside; they can frisk someone and take them to their office to hold them for some time; they can issue a traffic ticket on campus or nearby; they can look for a lost child on campus; they can take a report of a crime committed on campus; they can deescalate tensions; they can call other law enforcement agencies for support. That's probably not an exhaustive list but it's what I'm aware of. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 3:54
  • 2
    @scaaahu: I am sorry, but I don't understand your comment. Was it bad the I included my interest in distinguishing the two words? Should I edit that out? I am sorry if I broke any rules by asking that.
    – zdurra
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 9:39
  • 2
    @scaaahu's I think there is more to it then just the difference between police and security. There is also when to call them and escorts, etc. This seems pretty fundamental to university life.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 15:48
  • 1
    @scaaahu: I strongly disagree with the "boat programming" assessment here. As someone from a country like the OP's, where neither "campus security" nor "campus police" exist, getting an idea of whether these two terms denote the same thing is an integral aspect of understanding what "campus security/police" is. It is not as easy as saying "Some universities use police (...). Some use security guards.", as even with that in mind, I would have no idea whether that's the same organization as the usual "public police", a special team or subdivision thereof, or a private police-like entity. Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 9:33

4 Answers 4


Many universities (both public and private) in the US have campus police. These are actual police officers who can carry guns and have the power to arrest someone or write a citation. On a large campus with tens of thousands of students, this can be a quite sizable police force. The campus police typically have jurisdiction limited to the university campus, but in some cases, they share jurisdiction with local police in the area near campus.

Other universities have campus security. These are security guards who operate much like the security guards you might find at a sporting event or concert. They don't have full police powers, but they can certainly remove someone from campus who is misbehaving. When an incident becomes serious, they'll call in the local police force.

"Security" is often used as a generic name for these forces, whether or not they have actual police powers. On many campuses, there is a mixture of police (more highly trained and paid more) and security guards (less trained and less expensive) that are assigned to deal with different kinds of situations.


  1. Not exactly. Campus police have full police powers (to arrest, use deadly force, etc.) Campus security typically has less authority.

  2. Campus police or security are typically the first responders for criminal activity (robbery, assault, etc.) They enforce campus rules that may not carry criminal penalties. Campus security can call in the local police for more serious incidents. Anyone on campus (students, faculty, or staff) can call in the campus police or security, although making a frivolous complaint could get you in trouble.

  3. Unless there's some jurisdiction agreement between campus police and the regular local police force, it wouldn't be appropriate to call the campus police to respond to an incident off campus- the campus police would transfer your call to the appropriate police department. Note that "campus" might include all university-owned buildings, even if they're physically distant from the main campus. In particular, university-owned housing is typically "on campus."

At another level, most campuses in the US have their own set of rules for student conduct and an administrative process for judging students who are charged with violating the rules. This is separate from the legal system. It gives some leeway to university administrators to deal with infractions that might be crimes if they were handled by the regular legal system. This can be controversial, particularly when it extends to more serious offenses such as sexual assault.


Some large campuses in the US also have their own staff to provide firefighting and emergency medical assistance. When there are science and engineering labs, it's particularly important that firefighters be trained in how to deal with emergencies involving hazardous materials.

Many campuses in urban areas have free escort services- a student (or even a staff or faculty member) calls up security to request an escort to walk with them (or give a ride in a car) from one part of campus to another. You can't expect instant service, but a typical wait time might be 20 minutes. The escort might be provided by a campus police officer who is already out on patrol, but it's more common for there to be a group of non-police employees and vehicles dedicated to this. These services are mostly used late at night- if you've been working in your lab until 1 am, you might want an escort back to your dormitory or the parking garage.

In the US, the Clery Act requires colleges and universities to prepare an annual report with statistics on crimes and other incidents (such as fires) that occur on and near campus. Potential students often read these reports to determine whether a campus is "safe." This has made campus safety an important concern to administrators.

  • 5
    My university's PD's jurisdiction includes some of the student-heavy nearby neighborhoods, even if they aren't university property. So in some cases, it might be appropriate to call. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 23:07
  • 3
    That’s exactly the situation I mentioned where the campus police have some off campus jurisdiction. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 23:11
  • 1
    Ah, you're right, you mentioned it above, I was looking at the bullet "Note that 'campus' might include all university-owned buildings," which didn't include nearby non-university buildings. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 23:16
  • 8
    Might be worth adding to this answer that security personnel can also be medical first-responders. At my institution campus security responds to lab accidents or medical emergencies. They will then coordinate with local emergency response (ambulance/paramedics) to help guide them to the location of the emergency. University/college campuses can be pretty sprawling places with a lot of interconnected buildings. It can sometimes be hard for an outsider to find their way (including emergency personnel). They are also in charge of writing incident reports for university safety records. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 17:25
  • 2
    If there is an emergency situation do not worry about jurisdiction, call 911. It is their job to dispatch to the appropriate police agency.
    – emory
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 14:01

It can be all of the above. For example, UPenn has a legitimate, and accredited, police department, they also use a private security service that monitors the buildings and grounds, a walking escort service as well as a door-to-door shuttle service.

There are security phones all over campus. Basically, US universities take safety very seriously. Whoever you get in touch with, will make sure you get the help you need.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 1:53

1) Is campus police/campus security the same concept?

Slightly different, though they often have the same function. Most campus police have arrest powers and are official police agencies, while campus security doesn't have arrest powers and are just a security group. There are occasionally both on a single campus.

2) What exactly does campus police/campus security for university employees? When can they be called and for what purpose?

I mean, once can call them for anything. They can do campus escorts, reporting crimes on campus, questions, etc.

3) Can university students (if they are not at the university building) also call them? If yes, to what extend do they help them?

They can, though if they are off-campus, there's often nothing they can do, though they may be able to put you in touch/get in touch with the police in the area who can help. On occasion there are informal agreements where campus police might deal with local complaints from/about students instead of the local police.


You're running into a side effect of a capitalist system. For the most part, US universities, both public and private, are run as businesses, and the main customers are the parents. If the parents believe that a particular university is not safe, well there are plenty others to choose from.

Therefore the campus police/campus security will do whatever is needed to make the students feel safe, within reason. As faculty you will benefit from this approach, so yes, if you don't feel safe, don't hesitate to call them.

  • 5
    This may or may not be an answer to 'why'. This is definitely not an answer to 'what', which is asked here.
    – Mast
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 12:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .