IACLEA Writes Letter to Pa. Speaker, Opposes Bill

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – The following is a letter from the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) President Ray Thrower to Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Dennis O’Brien regarding PA House Bill 2382, which would prevent ordinary citizens from creating private police forces. This bill is opposed by the organization.

Dear Speaker O’Brien:

On behalf of the 1,200 institutions of higher education and the 2,000 individual professional members who comprise the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, (IACLEA) Inc., we wish to express our strong opposition to PA House Bill 2382. This bill was brought to our attention by IACLEA members in Pennsylvania on behalf of the thousands of public safety personnel and the people and communities who would be negatively impacted by this legislation.

It is our understanding that in Pennsylvania, public safety employees at private colleges and universities derive their law enforcement powers from Pennsylvania Act 22, Section 501, the “Detective and Private Police Act.” As by statute, private institutions are unable to certify their law enforcement staff through the municipal police training and certification process, the “Detective and Private Police Act” provides an opportunity for those institutions who wish to have a sworn, armed public safety department to do so. Thousands of law enforcement professionals in Pennsylvania are employed through this process at private colleges and universities. These campus law enforcement officers provide a significant service, not only on the campus, but to the community where their institution is located. Commissioned public safety officers reduce the burdens on local and state law enforcement agencies that have concurrent jurisdiction on campuses.

HB 2382 was introduced by State Rep. Biancucci, to address a provision in the law (Pennsylvania Act 22, Section 501) which allows groups of citizens to form “private police forces.” While this is an important issue which must be addressed, an unintended consequence of this legislation would be the decommissioning of sworn public safety personnel at private institutions throughout the Commonwealth.

In the post-Virginia Tech environment in which we operate, IACLEA has advocated for more professionally trained campus public safety agencies with full police powers. Last year, I appointed a high-level task force to study the many state government reviews of campus public safety that have been convened since the Virginia Tech tragedy. This Task Force recently made two recommendations that are relevant to this legislation. The Task Force recommended that states adopt enabling legislation allowing campus public safety agencies to employ sworn officers. A companion recommendation stated that sworn officers should have access to the full range of use of force options, including firearms, and should be required to complete the training required for the local jurisdiction for firearms use. A copy of the Blueprint report is attached for your reference.

At a time when more colleges and universities are considering arming and commissioning their public safety departments, we believe this legislation, while well intended, takes a giant step backward for campus public safety agencies. This proposal would be devastating to campuses and public safety personnel and harmful to the students, faculty, and staff they protect on our campuses in Pennsylvania. We urge lawmakers in Pennsylvania to reject HB 2382.

Sincerely,
Raymond H. Thrower, Jr.
President

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