March 28, 2005

CUPD Officers Question Current Status at University

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Currently, underage drinking at most fraternity parties can buy underage Cornellians a ticket to a downtown Ithaca courthouse. However, the Cornell University Police Department is calling for change. The CUPD is fighting for the power to handle drinking violations without the help of the Ithaca Police Department, along with all the other abilities that would come from elevating their status from “peace” officers to police officers.

Last semester, the Student Assembly passed a resolution to “urge the Cornell University Administration to promptly discuss the matter with the CUPD.”

The newly elected S.A. representatives will continue to consider the issue.

“I’d be interested in seeing [a resolution on the status of the Cornell Police] again,” said S.A. representative Sarah Boxer ’07.

Another S.A. representative, Michelle Fernandes ’06, commented that she’d like to hear a more clear decision from the University before rendering an opinion.

“I understand the problems which can arise from CUPD having limited power, however I haven’t heard a clear explanation of the negatives which might come with police status and so I haven’t yet been able to take a position on the matter,” Fernandes said.

The position of the Cornell Police Union is that the change in status would not only be beneficial to the force, but also to the student body.

“We only have jurisdiction in the fraternit[y houses] that are University-owned; if we were police, we’d have jurisdiction in those that are privately owned. If something happens in a private one, we can’t do anything, we have to call the city and they send kids downtown,” said Jim Morrissette, president of the Cornell Police Union. “We like to keep things within the campus judicial system.”

Some students are hesitant to encourage such a change.

“I’m not sure I’d want Cornell Police to have jurisdiction in my fraternity house,” said Jason Post ’07.

The University has not provided a clear explanation for why they will not seek the change in officer status.

Speculation as to reasons for not wanting the change include a belief that the current method of campus security is working and that the campus peace officers do not need any more power.

One problem may be that “since the change extends the scope of what the CUPD can do, it extends liability issues,” said Joe Rudnick ’08 during the S.A. hearing on the matter.

The officers who make up the CUPD receive their law enforcement authority from the State of New York under section 2.10, subsection 42 of the Criminal Procedure Law.

Among peace officer limitations are that they cannot serve arrest or search warrants, cannot obtain criminal history records on arrested subjects and cannot enter missing persons data into the New York State Information Network.

The lack of status also prohibits the CUPD from using the New York State Crime Mapping System. The Crime Mapping System provides cross-jurisdictional mapping as an analysis tool to reduce crime and improve public safety.

“The peace officer designation inhibits us from doing the best possible job,” Morrissette said.

Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun News Editor