The Kent Police Department and Kent State University Police Services are joining forces to make campus a safer place for students. The city of Kent has proposed a new policy, which is not in effect yet, to make a few areas off campus “joint patrol” jurisdictions.
University Police Services has always had long-standing “mutual aid” with a number of jurisdictions including the city of Kent, Brimfield Township and Portage County. Currently, all agencies are able to assist each other outside of their jurisdictions only upon a request for help or with permission. The new change in policy would allow all officers to respond immediately without a request to do so.
“As it stands, I would have to call a Kent State officer for help in order for them to have the authority to come outside of their jurisdiction to enforce laws or arrest people,” said Lt. James Prusha, University Police Services’ administrative lieutenant in charge of crime prevention, background investigations and nuisance ordinance. “With the new policy, if a Kent State officer is driving around off campus and sees someone breaking the law, they don’t need to wait for a Kent city officer to ask for help first.”
The new policy will give University Police Services officers more authority off campus. The “joint patrol” jurisdictions include west of campus around College and Willow streets and north of campus near University and Sherman streets. Not only will Kent State officers be allowed to write tickets and make arrests in these areas, they will also be able to charge students with city ordinances, which they were not allowed to do in the past.
For students and residents living in the “joint patrol” jurisdictions, the new policy means seeing more police officers more often. Lt. Prusha said he hopes the new policy will encourage students to behave themselves and not break the law.
“If a student — especially if they have been drinking — sees a Kent State officer outside of campus, maybe they will be aware that the campus is getting involved too,” Prusha said. “Not only will they have to go to Kent court to face their charges, but they would have to go to judicial affairs through the college and could even get kicked out of school.”
Michquel Penn, the community resource officer with University Police Services, believes the new proposed policy is logical for a number of reasons.
“There are times when additional police personnel is needed to handle a situation,” Penn said. “One of [University Police Services’] primary responsibilities already includes the safety and well-being of our students.”
Penn said this type of policy is not new to law enforcement.
“It’s typical near college campuses,” Penn said. “Ohio State University is a local example of an institution that has a similar policy.”
One question Kent State students ask: Why bring the change to our campus now? The new developments around campus and the increase of students in Kent may have something to do with it.
“Many of these designated areas have many new developments and new rental property that is being leased by KSU students,” Penn said. “The university’s Esplanade has even expanded into downtown. A lot of the property is Kent State property, so it makes sense to have Kent police patrol it.”
There are many situations that occur off campus where joint patrol would not only benefit student safety but also make it easier for all officers to work together.
“When we have Halloween downtown or when folks put together their college fests, we need officers from all departments and even SWAT teams to get together to help out,” Prusha said. “I’ve also experienced times where someone would assault someone on campus and then they would run off campus, and we would have officers from both agencies trying to find them.”
Officer Penn also recalls times where she was on duty and had to get on the radio to report something going on off campus, whether it was a fight or someone damaging property.
“With the new policy, both departments are responsible for the shared areas,” Penn said, “which just adds to the safety and security to these areas off campus.”
Police Chief Michelle Lee, of the Kent Police Department and University Police Services’ assistant chief had a meeting on Thursday to write up an agreement between the departments on the joint patrol jurisdictions. Next, the Board of Trustees must approve the new policy. If approved, the Kent Police Department and Kent State University Police Services will sign the written agreement and put the new policy into effect Wednesday.
“We are in the finalization stage,” Prusha said. “There is still a lot to iron out between the two agencies as far as recordkeeping and paper work go. For example, we need to talk about if a Kent State officer arrests someone for underage drinking off campus, whose report system will that be documented in.”
Contact Kelly Maile at [email protected]