Study: 2 in 3 U.S. Colleges Use Sworn Police Officers

A majority (92%) of public institutions used sworn officers, compared to 38% of private campuses. Nearly all sworn campus police officers were armed.

WASHINGTON – During the 2011-12 school year, campus law enforcement agencies at U.S. four-year colleges and universities with 2,500 or more students employed 31,904 persons, of which nearly half (14,576) were sworn officers, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced Tuesday. About two-thirds (68%) of the colleges and universities used sworn police officers with full arrest powers to provide law enforcement services.

A majority (92%) of public institutions used sworn officers, compared to 38% of private campuses. Nearly all sworn campus police officers were armed. Most sworn campus officers were authorized to use a sidearm (94%), chemical spray (94%) and a baton (93%).

Nearly all campuses (95%) operated their own law enforcement agency. Campuses without their own agency relied primarily on private security firms (77%) or local law enforcement agencies (18%) to provide law enforcement services. A majority of the campuses that used sworn police officers also employed nonsworn security officers (41% of agencies overall). About 27% of campuses used sworn officers exclusively while 32% relied solely on nonsworn officers.

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About 9 in 10 sworn campus police officers had arrest and patrol jurisdiction beyond campus boundaries. About 88% of public and 63% of private campuses had a memorandum of understanding or other formal written agreement with outside law enforcement agencies. More than half conducted joint patrols with local law enforcement.

Based on crime data reported under the Clery Act to the U.S. Department of Education, violent crimes on college campuses during 2011 accounted for 3% of serious crimes reported to campus law enforcement agencies serving four-year schools with 2,500 or more students. This compares to 12% of all serious crimes reported to law enforcement nationwide.

The rate of reported violent crime on college campuses (45 violent crimes per 100,000 students) was much lower than the overall U.S. rate (386 per 100,000 U.S. resident). Also, the violent crime rate in 2011 was 27% lower than the rate in 2004.
Campus law enforcement agencies received reports of 1,049 property crimes per 100,000 students during 2011. Campus property crime rates were 35% lower in 2011 than 2004. Nationwide, the rate for reported serious property crimes was 2,909 per 100,000 U.S. residents or about 3 times the rate for college campuses.

Nearly half (48%) of campus law enforcement agencies used a radio system that was fully interoperable with systems used by local law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other first responders. Agencies serving public campuses (64%) were more than twice as likely as those serving private campuses (26%) to have radio systems that were fully interoperable with systems of other first responders.

Agencies serving public campuses were more likely than those serving private campuses to meet regularly with special interest groups, such as those seeking to prevent domestic violence (69% public versus 48% private) and sexual violence (76% public versus 58% private).

Other findings include-

  • Among campuses surveyed in both 2004-05 and 2011-12, slight increases were observed in the percentage using sworn officers (from 75% to 77%) and armed officers (from 68% to 75%).
  • Between the 2004-05 and 2011-12 school years, the increase in full-time campus law enforcement employees (16%) outpaced the increase in student enrollment (11%). During 2011-12, law enforcement agencies serving private campuses had an average of 4.8 full-time employees per 1,000 students, compared to 3.6 per 1,000 on public campuses.
  • During 2011-12, most campus law enforcement agencies serving campuses with 5,000 or more students had personnel designated to address general crime prevention (91%), rape prevention (86%), drug education (79%), alcohol education (78%), stalking (75%), victim assistance (72%) and intimate partner violence (69%).
  • Nearly all campuses had a mass notification system that used email, text messages and other methods to alert and instruct students, faculty and staff in emergency situations.

To read the report, visit

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