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After Supreme Court ruling future for NDSU police is unclear

A week the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that North Dakota State University police can't regularly make arrests or patrol off campus, it's still unclear how the ruling will impact the force and the fines it collected from off-campus arrests. Special to The Forum

FARGO -- How does a police department adjust when the highest court says 30 percent of its arrests last year were illegal? North Dakota State University is about to find out.

More than 30 percent of arrests by NDSU police, 71 out of 231 arrests, happened entirely off campus in 2014, according to documents obtained in an open records request.

The state Supreme Court ruled last week that university police don't have the authority to make those arrests. Officers can now leave campus only to provide "temporary assistance and exchange of officers in unique situations and not on an ongoing basis," the opinion said.

This puts an end to off-campus patrols, which have historically been in NDSU's surrounding areas and even downtown.

Beyond that, the ramifications are unclear -- especially when it comes to money.

The Supreme Court did not address fines directly, but attorney Mark Friese said the issue is closely tied to jurisdiction. Because NDSU police were given citywide jurisdiction, the fines they collected went to city coffers.

Now, university police don't have that jurisdiction, and House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, believes those funds belong to the state.

"I think the law is very clear that the money goes to the Common School Fund and not the city," he said.

On Tuesday, Carlson planned to consult with legislative counsel, followed by the attorney general.

"If that's what the ruling is, then (the city of Fargo) should pay back everything they've collected and kept," he said.

NDSU is also "seeking clarification" from the attorney general on that issue, a university statement said.

Until then, university officials have declined to talk about the ruling, including how it will affect general operations of the police department.

Will officers be cut due to a lack of work?

"We are still awaiting guidance from the North Dakota attorney general's office," university spokeswoman Sadie Rudolph wrote in an email Tuesday. "Therefore, it's just too early to understand exactly how the ruling will affect us."

Grace Lyden

Grace Lyden is the higher education reporter for The Forum. Previously, she interned at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2014. She welcomes story ideas via email or phone. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com.

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