University Police Department officers would be able to patrol areas off campus if a bill introduced in the D.C. Council on Tuesday is passed.
Campus police officers would be able to “exercise” authority in areas off campus which the Metropolitan Police Department chief would approve ahead of time, according to the bill. The bill would impact police officers at all D.C. universities, not just GW. It comes about two years after GW first tried to empower UPD officers to patrol off campus.
Special police officers, like UPD, would also undergo additional training to work with disabled people and people with mental health conditions, according to the bill. Campus officers would also be able to assist with emergencies on other schools’ campuses if a state of emergency is declared or if the university’s president requests the additional help, according to the bill.
The bill was introduced by Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie and co-sponsored by six council members including Chairman Phil Mendelson. Mendelson had also supported GW’s proposal two years ago to send officers off campus, although he said the plan lacked specificity.
The bill would also allow campus police officers to wear their uniforms when traveling to court or between university properties. The bill was referred to the Council’s judiciary committee and would require a signature from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser before undergoing a 30-day congressional review.
UPD officers had patrolled off campus for years until it was revealed in April 2013 that they were operating outside of their jurisdiction. When officials proposed a plan to send officers off campus in the summer of 2013, officials said it would smooth relationships with neighbors in Foggy Bottom. They also hoped to work with the 13 other D.C. universities in order to present a bill to the Council, and received early support from Georgetown University.
That proposal fizzled out before it reached the Council after neighbors, students, civil liberties groups and mayoral candidates questioned why a private police force should be able to patrol off campus.
UPD’s records are closed to the public, unlike MPD or other city police departments.
This new bill is just the latest in a string of attempts to expand police power. Foggy Bottom’s Council member Jack Evans also proposed a bill in 2002, along with several other Council members, that would have expanded off-campus power and granted campus police the same arrest authority as MPD. That bill failed after opponents said it gave campus officers too much power.