College police forces changing

By Brandon Addeo | The Duquesne Duke

Police forces at public and private universities across the country have seen an increase in size and strength, according to a recent U.S. Department of Justice study, and this is no different at Duquesne.

A report by the justice department found that in over 900 four-year institutions, the number of institutions with sworn police officers rose from 75 percent to 77 percent between the 2004-05 and 2011-12 school years.

The report also found that in the same time period, the number of universities employing armed officers increased from 68 percent to 75 percent. More than 80 percent of officers also have patrol and arrest powers that extend beyond campus boundaries, according to the report.

Duquesne currently has 32 sworn, armed officers, plus an additional nine security officers, according to Duquesne director for public safety Tom Hart. The University has had officers on staff since the 1960s, Hart said.

According to the report, only 38 percent of private universities have an established police force, whereas 92 percent of public universities have a sworn police force. Of those institutions, 91 percent of public schools use armed officers, nearly triple that of private schools, at 36 percent.

Hart said training for police officers is “constantly” being adapted and changed to employ new equipment and tactics.

“As the world has seen, violence can happen anywhere,” Hart said. “A well-trained, experienced police and security team … is able to provide strategic, situation-appropriate responses as it works to ensure ongoing security and safety.”

Computer technology has created the biggest impact and change in law enforcement, according to Hart.

“Information is now so much more accessible and faster to acquire,” Hart said. “The Internet has opened a whole other world for assisting with investigations, even allowing online training in the latest law enforcement trends.”

Other Pittsburgh area universities have expanded their police forces as well.

The University of Pittsburgh has approximately 100 police officers and 46 security guards on staff, and is the third-largest police force in Allegheny County, according to Pitt spokesman John Fedele.

Pitt also employs bicycle officers, motorcycle officers, a K-9 unit and a Special Emergency Response Team. All Pitt officers receive regular active shooter training, according to Fedele.

Point Park University established their police department in 2011 with five sworn officers, and currently employs 10 full-time officers and two police administrators, according to Point Park spokesman Lou Corsaro.

Corsaro said that creating its own police force has had an important impact for Point Park.

“It allows us to monitor our campus and respond to emergency calls without having to hire full-time security or rely on the Pittsburgh Police,” Corsaro said. “Our department is instead able to work with Pittsburgh Police, while also maintaining the discretion to charge or not charge individuals internally or externally.”

In 2009, Duquesne’s police department received accreditation from the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. Duquesne is one of six campus law enforcement departments in the state to receive such an accreditation.

The accreditation process assesses various aspects of policing, including administration, law enforcement procedures, physical facilities, vehicles, equipment and other requirements.