The jurisdiction and responsibilities of campus police

What does the campus police do?

More stories from Winter Heffernan

April 3, 2023

Photo by Reonna Huettner

UW-Eau Claire police continue to see a high number of cases related to students becoming victims to scams online.

Jay Dobson, the chief of the UW-Eau Claire Police Department helped shed some light on the responsibilities and jurisdiction of the campus police department.

Dobson said the campus police are fully certified by the Wisconsin Department of Justice as a law enforcement agency. This puts them on the same level as a municipal or county agency. For example, the campus police have full arrest powers.

Dobson explained that because of the location of campus police, the nature of most cases is different from the Eau Claire police department,however. Campus police are equipped to deal with any case, but often deal with different crimes when compared to the city of Eau Claire.

“Our work is different. We often have different types of cases,” Dobson said. “The city of Eau Claire deals with retail theft all the time. We don’t really get things like that often.”

Dobson said the primary jurisdiction of campus police is on university properties and adjacent roadways, but there are other areas in which the campus police are now involved.

In April of 2018, the campus police and Eau Claire police created a “concurrent jurisdiction” agreement. Dobson said this agreement gives the campus police full jurisdiction of anywhere in Eau Claire.

“The intent was not for the university police to become a ‘metro PD.’ Internally we have very strict protocols,” Dobson said.

Dobson went on to explain that the intent of this agreement was so that campus police could help provide public safety on non-campus locations like Haymarket Landing.

“Our philosophy has always been about public safety for the campus itself. But as other areas grow we start getting all these non-campus areas like the three residence halls and maybe even Sonnentag,” Dobson said.

Before the concurrent jurisdiction agreement in 2018, the Eau Claire police responded to off-campus reports and cases involved with the off-campus dorms and other properties. This meant that many students would be not given the services campus police offer.

This jurisdiction agreement allows for more students to have resources the Eau Claire police department does not provide. Dobson gave the example that students who commit minor offenses can have their charges diverted by campus police.

Additionally, between campus and Eau Claire police, mutual aid is in place. This lets campus police help back up Eau Claire police when they need it, or vice versa. Dobson said in 2021 the campus police assisted the Eau Claire police department 80 times.

Campus police also cooperate with the UW-Eau Claire housing and residence department to run a campus safety officer program. According to their webpage, this program allows students to volunteer and help keep campus safe. 

Part of the campus safety officer program is a safe-ride program for students needing safe transportation to and from campus properties at late hours. This program was recently expanded to cover the downtown parking ramp on Galloway Street and North Barstow Street.

“To this day and into the future, our primary objective is public safety on campus for the students and faculty staff and that has never changed,” Dobson said.

For more information on campus police, please visit their webpage. For information on the Campus Safety Officer program, please visit their webpage.

Heffernan can be reached at [email protected].