May 22, 2013

Princeton Police, Campus Security, Who Does What?

After years of refining the relationship between Town and Gown when it comes to campus policing, the new consolidated Princeton Police Department and Princeton University’s department of public safety have put an updated agreement in place that clarifies who does what.

The agreement on operating procedures outlines best practices and processes for enhancing collaboration between the departments to best serve the entire Princeton community.

But because the document includes details of police response strategies and protocols, it will not be released to the public, said Princeton Police Captain Nick Sutter when asked for details. “It contains privileged information that if released could endanger the public and officers,” he said.

Mr. Sutter, who was with the former Borough Police Department for some 19 years before consolidation in January, explained the background to the current agreement: “When I first started in the Borough, the campus force was more of a security department. Over the last 15 years it has developed into more of a law enforcement agency and that evolution has created a need for clarification of who handles what. Since 2005, the Borough had been working toward such an agreement. Township Police put an agreement in place toward the end of 2011. With consolidation, we’ve been revisiting the relationship and developing a new model, one that is not based on an either/or approach and is cooperative in nature. We’ve adopted some of the pieces from the Township agreement.”

He spoke of his excitement about the new cooperative emphasis as a way of working with the campus police. “One or the other of us will be designated as the primary investigator with the other in a secondary supporting role,” he said.

The relationship would be similar to the way in which area police departments work together and share resources, said Mr. Sutter. “If we need a police dog from West Windsor, they would share that resource with us,” he said.

“With respect to the campus police, the agreement specifies that they will take all routine service calls for incidents that happen on their property but if there is a public safety issue, a critical incident in progress, say a kidnapping or a threat with a deadly weapon, then the Princeton Police will respond,” said Mr. Sutter. “When the situation is under control, we will then share investigative tools with the campus police.”

According to the police captain: “this type of cooperation is more efficient. It promotes the flow of information between the two departments and it more effectively addresses public safety on campus and in the town.”

Before consolidation, the campus police had to deal with two separate police departments. In many ways the agreement that is being developed is formalizing practices that are already in place and have been for some time.

“This agreement builds upon a long history of cooperation between the University’s Department of Public Safety and the Princeton police,” said Treby Williams, assistant vice president for safety and administrative planning. “Both departments are dedicated to the safety and security of the community and to a partnership characterized by mutual respect and effective teamwork.”

Designed to provide additional mutual investigative support and increase the effectiveness of communication between the departments, the agreement clarifies existing procedures, outlines responsibilities, and establishes a standardized process for collecting and sharing statistics. All responsibilities outlined in the agreement are consistent with the respective department’s current operations. The departments will work together to leverage training program opportunities and coordinate joint efforts, taking advantage of shared resources between the departments.

“I feel we have developed a creative and effective model that maximizes the resources available to both departments,” said Mr. Sutter. “It’s a model that might well serve as an example to other town and gown communities.”

“Working closely together is in the best interest of the community, and we look forward to maintaining our shared spirit of cooperation,” said Paul Ominsky, executive director of the University’s Department of Public Safety, adding that the agreement will be reviewed regularly by both departments to determine if any changes are necessary.

“The collaborative document dictates response protocols to crimes involving the university community; it’s clear, concise, and gives our officers an understanding about how they should respond,” said Mr. Sutter.