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Expanded campus police jurisdiction moves through Legislature

UND Police officer Michael Pommerer (left) and UND Police Chief Eric Plummer could see expanded jurisdiction under a bill moving through the North Dakota Legislature. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
UND Police officer Michael Pommerer (left) and UND Police Chief Eric Plummer could see expanded jurisdiction under a bill moving through the North Dakota Legislature. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

A bill to expand the jurisdiction of campus police departments in North Dakota has been amended to include more clearly defined boundaries and stipulations for filing crimes.

Senate Bill 2193, which applies to law enforcement officers employed by three institutions under the authority of the State Board of Higher Education, was almost unanimously approved in the Senate last month and received positive testimony in a House committee hearing last week.

The campuses that have their own police departments are UND, North Dakota State University and North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton.

While the original text of the bill allowed jurisdiction to be expanded by up to one-quarter-mile beyond the boundaries of each campus, the latest draft of the proposed legislation is written to specific limits drawn out street by street.

"It's pretty similar to what it was before," UND Police Sgt. Danny Weigel said of the amended boundary. "When we look at jurisdiction, that's the area we typically patrol ... because there's a heavy concentration of UND students, and that's where the campus itself is located."

Defined area

If the bill is drafted into law, the area opened to university police in Grand Forks would include the length of DeMers Avenue between the avenue's intersection with North 55th Street in the west and Washington Street in the east.

The expanded jurisdiction also would include University Avenue from its intersection with North 55th Street running east past University Park to end at North 21st Street. The northern boundary of the department's jurisdiction would be outlined by the stretch of Gateway Drive from North 42nd Street in the west to Columbia Road in the east.

University police in all three campus settings would be able to continue beyond their jurisdictional boundaries if engaged in "hot pursuit" to make an arrest. In most instances, the bill would require charges for cases of misdemeanor or felony violations on campus or within the expanded jurisdiction area to be filed in district court. One exception to that rule would be if the primary law enforcement officer involved in the case is not employed by the SBHE.

The police departments of the state's university system have been held to their respective campuses since a 2015 decision by the North Dakota Supreme Court following the off-campus arrest of a DUI suspect by NDSU Officer Ryan Haskell. In that case, Justice Daniel Crothers wrote in his opinion that officers employed through the North Dakota University System may not exercise jurisdiction beyond campus except in temporary or unique cases. Crothers also wrote the SBHE, the university system's governing body, did not have the authority to approve joint powers agreements between campus and community police departments.

In the local version of such an agreement, Weigel said his department had maintained a memorandum of understanding with the city of Grand Forks before the court ruling in which the university police had been "essentially deputized" by the mayor of Grand Forks.

City agreement

Through that agreement, the UND Police Department was able to write municipal parking tickets and issue municipal parking summons, Weigel said. He added university police also were able to make arrests on municipal warrants. He said UND Police traditionally have filed nearly all of their cases through the district court and anticipated the bill would cause little change in that.

Weigel said the MOU had given university police "citywide jurisdiction" to respond to service calls.

He characterized the current layout of jurisdiction as creating gaps in service just beyond the boundaries of university-owned property.

"There are basically houses between University Avenue and Sixth Avenue North, just south of the Ralph (Engelstad Arena), where we wouldn't have jurisdiction on any of those, and they lie right in the heart of campus," Weigel said.

He believed the bill's passage would add to the area the department could patrol, though he added the university police would continue their focus on campus safety. Any future joint powers agreement drafted between UND Police and the city of Grand Forks likely would follow the text of the previous memorandum, Weigel said.

"Any time there's an MOU we look at what worked well and what didn't," he said. "We would come up with something that the community and UND could do together to keep the community safe."

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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