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Aug 10, 2015 5:46 PM

What's so different about university police officers? Not much, UNH Chief says


DURHAM - After a University of Cincinnati campus police officer shot and killed a man during a traffic stop, a prosecutor in the case is shining light on university police departments across the country.

However, the precedent of colleges having their own law enforcement agency is nothing new.

In the Granite State - like thousands of other universities across the country - the University of New Hampshire employs sworn, armed police officers and has been doing so for decades. The department is larger than many others in small Granite State towns.

“We’re no different than anybody else, we’re just in a different place," said UNH Police Chief Paul Dean.“In New Hampshire, all the police officers are trained the same. So, university police officers have the same training as a Manchester police officer. They go to the same academy.”

Data from the Bureau of Justice released in January said more than 90% of college campuses have their own law enforcement agency.

On those campuses, most have sworn police officers who are armed and possess arrest and patrol jurisdiction beyond campus boundaries.

The departments are typically funded in majority by the educational institution's overall budget - and not municipal taxpayers.

Students at UNH told NH1 News they support having a full-fledged police department on campus, as opposed to unarmed security officers.

"All of my experiences with them, they’ve just acted like they’re a regular police man or police woman," said senior Erik Bennett, who believes campus officers may understand college students better. "Since they’re surrounded by college students, it probably helps them with judging their behavior," he said.

The UNH Police Dept. dates back to the 1920's. Today, the department's jurisdiction is not limited to the UNH campus - and often supports police efforts in Newmarket, Lee, Madbury, Barrington, Dover and Laconia if requested, Chief Dean said.

The officers also carry tasers and firearms, just like any other department.

“They’re still police officers, and they still get put into situations that are sometimes really crazy," said Abbey Smith, a senior, who said she understands the need for UNH officers to be armed.

Chief Dean told NH1 News he examines incidents across the country on a daily basis, including the officer-involved shootings in Ferguson and Cincinnati.

Dean said it helps him better prepare UNH officers for how to react if a similar situation were to happen here.

“We spend a lot of time teaching officers how to use the tools on their tool belt effectively," he said. "We have to begin doing more discussion and more training on matters of the heart, and matters of the mind.”


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