If you’ve got a child who is starting college next fall, it won’t be long before you’ll be touring campuses (if you’re not already) and helping them select from (you hope) multiple acceptances. Maybe your child is already in college. Either way, you probably haven’t given much thought to preparing them to deal with campus police. Here’s why you should, even if they’ve never been one to get in trouble or even push their curfew and other rules you’ve set for them.
College students typically find themselves with more freedom than they’ve ever had. While many kids use that freedom responsibly, not everyone does. It’s easy for even “good” kids to find themselves caught up in something illegal – or at least in the vicinity of it. How they deal with campus police can make all the difference to the outcome of their circumstances. Yet, too many college students don’t take campus police officers seriously. Some see them as little more than “mall cops.”
Many schools have their own police forces
In fact, more schools than ever – especially large colleges and universities – have a police force with the same authority as any other law enforcement agency. For example, the University of Pennsylvania Police Department (UPPD) has over 120 full-time officers. Even when schools have a private security force, you can be sure that those officers work closely with local law enforcement and can get police on the scene quickly if necessary.
Students have constitutional rights
Certainly, students should be respectful when dealing with campus police or security officers. However, they need to understand that they have constitutional rights — and how and when to assert those rights.
One key right that can get complicated on college campuses (particularly in college-owned housing) is the Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure. While law enforcement generally can’t search a dorm room without an occupant’s permission or a search warrant, all it takes is one roommate (or someone else in the room) to tell them they can come in and have a look around. This is just one of the many reasons why ALL college kids need to understand their rights and legal options in this regard.
If a college student is accused of wrongdoing, even if law enforcement doesn’t arrest them and charges aren’t pursued, they can still face disciplinary action by their university, which can cost them scholarships and athletic or other team positions and even get them expelled. Certainly, if they have to deal with the justice system and the school disciplinary system, that’s a lot to take on. Getting legal guidance as soon as possible can help them protect their rights and present their case as effectively as possible.