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  • non-sworn college campus security (California)

    I work in an area that has many colleges around it and we frequently get calls from students at the schools asking what "rights" they have against their on-campus public safety (security) officers. I know some of the schools have sworn officers that work campus security and they have the full powers as california peace officers and to that I tell the callers that they have the same rights as any other officer.

    However, there are a couple schools that use non-sworn security staff and call them "public safety officers". What I am wondering, is that since it is a private college, on private property, and students are living in university owned housing, what rights do these students have against search/seizure as well as if their public safety detains them? I assume since it is private property an agent of the "landlord" is allowed to search the residence for contraband, but under what situations are they allowed to enter and do the students have the same sort of protection as if a LEO is entering a private residence (ie: right to refuse entry)?

    From the calls that we get, it sounds like the schools on campus public safety seems to think they are very powerful, and students frequently call to ask if they don't answer the door public safety can open it with their key and walk in and search the premises.

    Sorry for the long post, but I was just hoping to get some clarification on the rights that private-university non-sworns public safety officers have and what the students can and can not contest.. If someone could just give me a general overview that would be great!

    Thanks for all the help in advance!

    P.S: also is it legal for these public safety guys to have red/blue dash lights in their cars for on campus use... i could have sworn that combo was for LEO only and amber was for non-LEO.. from what someone told me, I guess these guys actually make traffic stops on campus and write "tickets" using the CA vehicle code sections as the violation type!
    Last edited by ca911dispatch; 08-27-2006, 05:41 PM.

  • #2
    I don't live in CA so I can't answer your question with spicifics. However, in general I would think that if they are on private property it would depend on the agreement they entered into when they rented the dorm room.

    While it may seem outragous that a private security guard can enter and search one's room, if that is part of the agreement the student signed when they moved in, well...

    Red/blue lights are state spicific so I can't help you there.

    Most importantly, you probably should not be giving these students any legal advice. I recommend they seek the opinion of an attorney with questions about their rights and any other issue involving landlord disputes.
    Fear not the armed citizen but rather the government that tries to disarm him.

    Comment


    • #3
      This is a real nebulous area so like detsarg said, I would refrain from answering any of their questions and refer them back to the Campus Public Safety Chief, the schools PAO, or a private attorney.

      Under Section 830.7 (b) of the California Penal Code, persons regularly employed as security officers for independent institutions of higher education, recognized under subdivision (b) of Section 66010 of the Education Code, are not peace officers but, they may exercise the powers of arrest of a peace officer as specified in Section 836 during the course and within the scope of their employment, provided that they:

      1. Successfully complete a course in the exercise of those powers pursuant to Section 832 and;

      2. If the institution has concluded a memorandum of understanding, permitting the exercise of that authority, with the sheriff or the chief of police within whose jurisdiction the institution lies.

      What does this mean? Not a lot. There are two standards under which arrests can be made. One is for peace officers (which is very liberal) and the other is for folks making citizen's arrests (which is less liberal). In essence, this section lets them make citizen's arrests under the more liberal criteria normally reserved for peace officers.

      Civilians are not bound by search and seizure laws, but they are bound by trespass laws. Again, you need to look at the student's rental agreement to see if this type of entry is a condition of residence.

      If the campus is privately owned, then the Vehicle Code does not apply except for certain parking and towing situations. However, if it is publicly owned land to which vehicles are granted access, then the Vehicle Code does apply pursuant to Section 21113(c) VC. Once again, any arrest for violating these rules would have to be a citizen's arrest and one of your units would have to be called out to do the cite release. However, if the campus policy (which the students probably agreed to comply with when they enrolled) call for administrative action if certain driving laws are broken, then again this is an internal matter with the college.

      As you can see, this can be a real quagmire. The laws are so complex that if one of the students wanted to file a trespassing complain because campus security entered and searched their room, or wanted an arrest made for false imprisonment because campus security detained them, your watch commander would probably do nothing more than have someone take a report and submit it to the District Attorney to determine if there is enough for prosecution.
      Last edited by L-1; 08-26-2006, 11:04 PM.
      Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

      Comment


      • #4
        Still waiting on a CA LEO to chime in, but from what I've been told, schools have alot of leeway when it comes to searching dorm rooms. You are a student on campus living in their housing by their terms (usually by signed contract). I'm sure there is a specific expectation of privacy, but it is probably lesser than that of a regular homeowner. Most of the campuses around me (in TN) have commissioned LEO's and not security so I'm not totally sure.
        I'm 10-8 like a shark in a sea of crime..

        Comment


        • #5
          Update:

          After speaking with a fellow LEO who is currently midway through law school, we found the following in a written legal brief (through Westlaw) with regards to CA:


          ....The validity of a regulation authorizing the search of dormitories does not depend on whether a student waives the right to 4th Amendment protection or on whether it is contracted away; rather, the validity is determined by whether a regulation is a reasonable exercise of a college's supervisory duty. The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures as guaranteed by the 4th Amendment applies when police search a dormitory room in a public college. Searches that are intended to enforce legitimate health and safety rules that relate to a college's function as an educational institution are reasonable.

          In other words, in public college dorm rooms, it sounds like private/contracted campus security can search without a warrant or probable cause, but commissioned police officers cannot. The above excerpt advised "public" college, so I'm not sure if it includes private universities. We're still looking into it.
          I'm 10-8 like a shark in a sea of crime..

          Comment


          • #6
            thanks so much for all your responses, I am mostly interested in this for personal curisoity and because I am interested in the way the law works.. Just to clarify, I most definitely do not intend or ever give legal advice... I just enter the call and let the officers figure it out, but I am curious though if the calls I make have the legal ground to end up being warranted complaints since of the combination of a school and private property makes it very confusing.

            I would assume the rental agreement stipulates the allowance of entry by university officials, and say the security guards then find contraband (for arguments sake, lets say drug paraphernalia or something relatively minor), after the guards confiscate it, they attempt to detain the student for what I now understand would be a citizens arrest.. Now I am not completely sure of the laws of Citizen Arrest in California (if someone could clarify that would be awesome), but I would think that since it is most likely a misdemeanor charge, which was not committed in the presence of the citizen, would there be grounds for detention/even a citizen arrest? I know officers only have like I think 6 or so misdemanors that they can arrest on if they were committed not in their presence (DUI, DV, and I can't remember the rest..), so it would make logical sense that you could not make a citizens arrest for a misdemeanor not made in your presence as well right?

            As far as the vehicle code topic that L-1 mentioned, since it is privately owned property, I was under the impression that you could blow any stop sign you wanted and it was not citable since the California Vehicle Code does not apply. Is it legal for private institutions to impose their own "vehicle code" and enforce it as such writing internal citations against their students or staff? For some reason to me, this sounds kind of crazy...

            Also, does anyone know what the law regarding the red/blue lights on private property are? For some reason it bothers me if these guys have red/blue lights in their cars and all the training they have is I would assume the general PC 832 Laws of Arrest class..

            thanks for all the responses, i just cant believe sworn LEOS can't do something that private security can with little to no training...
            Last edited by ca911dispatch; 08-27-2006, 04:25 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Can't tell you what California says about citizen's arrest. However, if the campus security is acting as an agent of law enforcement, then you're back into (at least) a grey area.

              Remember, Constitutional limitations on the government do not apply to private citizens. However, when a citizen acts as agent of the government, then the courts have ruled that they DO apply. So, if the security officers enter and search the residence with the intent of passing along any contraband to law enforcement, then they are (arguably) acting as agents of law enforcement and the 4th Amendment restrictions on search and seizure may apply. If they search the residence according to university policy/procedure, and the occupants are only disciplined administratively through the university (as many universities have their own "in house" disciplinary board), then the search should stand.

              Gets complicated, doesn't it?

              Here's an even more complicated example. I once worked for a university as a sworn officer. The university was buying up residential properties around the university where most of the student body lived. Once the property was owned by the university, the rules changed for those students who lived there...campus police had every right, under the rental agreement, to enter and search the residence for violations of university rules (for example, the university prohibited kegs on university property). If a violation was found, then the student residents would be sent before a university disciplinary board. It put the officers in a unique situation, however, as a search of the property without consent, a warrant, or exigent circumstances would be unlawful under the 4th Amendment. So, we could search the property as employees of the university, because it's private property owned by the university. However, as sworn police officers, we were also representatives of the government and, as such, bound by the limitations of the government in the Constitution. That means that, whatever we found during an "administrative" search could not be used criminally, because the search was in violation of the 4th Amendment.
              Last edited by Bing_Oh; 08-27-2006, 05:05 AM.
              "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
              -Friedrich Nietzsche

              Comment


              • #8
                I would assume the rental agreement stipulates the allowance of entry by university officials, and say the security guards then find contraband (for arguments sake, lets say drug paraphernalia or something relatively minor), after the guards confiscate it, they attempt to detain the student for what I now understand would be a citizens arrest.. Now I am not completely sure of the laws of Citizen Arrest in California (if someone could clarify that would be awesome), but I would think that since it is most likely a misdemeanor charge, which was not committed in the presence of the citizen, would there be grounds for detention/even a citizen arrest?
                You're kind of contradicting yourself. If campus security/RA finds drug paraphernalia or drugs during a random search, then he can detain the individual for law enforcement. Drugs and drug paraphernalia are illegal to possess so the misdemeanor offense of possession has occurred in the presence of the campus security, hence the citizen's arrest/detainment of the student. Again, I'm not sure about CA citizen's arrest laws and campus security (non-commissioned) so don't hold me to this.

                I have delved further into some federal case law and from what I can gather, there are still limitations as to what campus officials (security/RA's) can do. Usually when administrative type searches are done in dorm rooms, it is to look for items not allowed in the room by contract (refrigerators, alcohol, girls etc). During that search if the representatives of the university (RA, campus security, etc) find contraband, then I would assume a detention can be made of the student for law enforcement. Hardly the case from what I usually hear about. One thing I've heard from campus police near where I live is that most of the time campus officials handle it and criminal charges are rarely pursued. Academic punishment is more-so enforced.

                Lights in the vehicles will also vary from state to state. I'm not sure what's authorized out there. I'll wait from here on out for a CA LEO.
                I'm 10-8 like a shark in a sea of crime..

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bing_Oh
                  So, we could search the property as employees of the university, because it's private property owned by the university. However, as sworn police officers, we were also representatives of the government and, as such, bound by the limitations of the government in the Constitution. That means that, whatever we found during an "administrative" search could not be used criminally, because the search was in violation of the 4th Amendment.
                  wow that really does make it complicated, it would almost seem as if the university would be at an advantage to use non-sworn security and then detain the student until sworn officers come.

                  SgtScott, i re-read my post and you are right, I did contradict myself, sorry about that, its getting late out hereand I wasn't thinking clearly ha... but what I am curious about is say there was a misdemeanor committed not in the presence of the security officer

                  a better example may be if a student gets in a physical fight with another student that does not cause great bodily injury and is not a felony and not with a deadly weapon (basically an assault [PC 240/242] in california), through the investigation they determine via witness statments they determine the identity of the student is at fault, they enter the students housing on a search without permission from the student as they are allowed to due to the contract signed, inside they find the clothing that matches the suspect description as well as injury to the hand/etc of the student who was the instigator.. in this case, since it was not causing great bodily injury/and was not an assault with a deadly weapon, and it did NOT occur in their presence, do they actually have the right to place the student under citizens arrest and detain him until sworn officers come?

                  if so, what are the rights afforded to the student under a citizens arrest? (i know this varies state by states but I am curious how you all would handle it) say the security takes the student, detained before calling sworn LEO, to their office to answer their questions.. does miranda apply? if criminal charges are levied, would the statements made be inadmissible unless they were spontaneous in nature?

                  sorry for so many questions/long posts... this stuff is fascinating to me.. maybe i should go back to school and work on a JD or go through the academy...
                  Last edited by ca911dispatch; 08-27-2006, 06:09 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ca911dispatch
                    wow that really does make it complicated, it would almost seem as if the university would be at an advantage to use non-sworn security and then detain the student until sworn officers come.
                    Remember that an "agent of government" isn't limited to just sworn police officers. The court determines if a person is acting as an agent of the government by their actions and thought processes. So, even a non-sworn security guard can become an agent of the government (and, as such, must follow all the same rules and limitations that a sworn officer has to follow) if they are acting as such. A security guard who enters a residence looking for contraband and who has every intention of turning that contraband over to law enforcement for criminal prosecution could, realistically, be considered an agent of government by the court. That means the search would be unlawful and the seizure thrown out. Or, maybe not. It all depends on how convincing the attorneys are and what the judge decides.

                    If you're really interested in all of this, look into Constitutional Law and Search and Seizure classes at a local college. Plenty of community colleges offer those kinds of courses. Not that they'd, necessarily, help...this stuff can be as clear as mud.
                    Last edited by Bing_Oh; 08-27-2006, 06:34 AM.
                    "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
                    -Friedrich Nietzsche

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      All State Universities in CT have certified LEOs. Some of the private universities/colleges have non-sworn campus security officers. I work for the state. I cannot key into a dorm room, except as allowed per law for the various exceptions found in case law.

                      I have a friend that retired from my PD and now works at a private unversity. He is no longer sworn. His agency can key into rooms. They can search a room. Anything they find can be used in student judicial hearings at the university. As far as holding the people and the room and calling the local PD, I'd assume it would fall under the current case law involving "acting as an agent of LE". But, the courts are a funny thing and there may be language in the housing agreement the student sign at that school that allows them to do so. I'll ask him next time I see him.

                      One interesting thing about room searches. While I cannot key in and search a room, the housing staff can. If they request our presence for safety reasons (if they articulate they called us for personal safety concerns), and they find something, we can take legal action. It's all in how the report reads.

                      But, as this is an unrestricted forum and the threads can be read by anyone, I won't go into any more detail. It ruins the "You can't do this" claims I get to hear all of the time.
                      "Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince" - Unknown Author
                      ______________________________________________

                      "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." - Thomas Jefferson
                      ______________________________________________

                      “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” - John Adams

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bing_Oh
                        Remember that an "agent of government" isn't limited to just sworn police officers. The court determines if a person is acting as an agent of the government by their actions and thought processes. So, even a non-sworn security guard can become an agent of the government (and, as such, must follow all the same rules and limitations that a sworn officer has to follow) if they are acting as such. A security guard who enters a residence looking for contraband and who has every intention of turning that contraband over to law enforcement for criminal prosecution could, realistically, be considered an agent of government by the court. That means the search would be unlawful and the seizure thrown out. Or, maybe not. It all depends on how convincing the attorneys are and what the judge decides.

                        If you're really interested in all of this, look into Constitutional Law and Search and Seizure classes at a local college. Plenty of community colleges offer those kinds of courses. Not that they'd, necessarily, help...this stuff can be as clear as mud.
                        I work for a state university police department and that is our take on it too. Our RA's and security (we have security and police) do not initiate or participate in dorm room searches.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ca911dispatch
                          As far as the vehicle code topic that L-1 mentioned, since it is privately owned property, I was under the impression that you could blow any stop sign you wanted and it was not citable since the California Vehicle Code does not apply. Is it legal for private institutions to impose their own "vehicle code" and enforce it as such writing internal citations against their students or staff? For some reason to me, this sounds kind of crazy..
                          Yes, it is routine. Each institution can create rules of conduct for its students and faculty and impose administrative sanctions for violations. OTOH, if John the taxi driver takes a shortcut through campus and blows a stop sign, it's going to be a little difficult to put him on academic probation if he is not a student, or suspend him from his job if he is not a school employee.

                          Originally posted by ca911dispatch
                          Also, does anyone know what the law regarding the red/blue lights on private property are? For some reason it bothers me if these guys have red/blue lights in their cars and all the training they have is I would assume the general PC 832 Laws of Arrest class..
                          There's a whole slew of laws covering this but in short, the answer is no. The use of blue lights is restricted to certain peace officers and red lights to authorized emergency vehicles or private vehicles with a permit. A simulated light bar is also prohibited.

                          Believe it or not, the gurus on this are the Tow Officers at your local CHP office, who are also responsible for overseeing the regulation of emergency vehicles. If you make a discreet call to them, they will send campus security a form letter telling them they are not authorized to equip their cars with these lights and directing them to correct the problem.

                          Originally posted by ca911dispatch
                          a better example may be if a student gets in a physical fight with another student that does not cause great bodily injury and is not a felony and not with a deadly weapon (basically an assault [PC 240/242] in california), through the investigation they determine via witness statments they determine the identity of the student is at fault, they enter the students housing on a search without permission from the student as they are allowed to due to the contract signed, inside they find the clothing that matches the suspect description as well as injury to the hand/etc of the student who was the instigator.. in this case, since it was not causing great bodily injury/and was not an assault with a deadly weapon, and it did NOT occur in their presence, do they actually have the right to place the student under citizens arrest and detain him until sworn officers come?
                          With a couple of exceptions, California law says that warrantless misdemeanor arrests can only be made by cops or civilians for an offence committed in their presence. In addition, the arrest must be contemporaneous in time and place with the offence committed. So under the circumstances you describe, no one is going to be arrested unless the actual victim decides to make a citizen's arrest. Instead, a report will be taken and application for complaint will be made through the DA. Of course, there are some exceptions such as DV or if the suspect is under 18, etc.

                          Originally posted by ca911dispatch
                          what are the rights afforded to the student under a citizens arrest? (i know this varies state by states but I am curious how you all would handle it) say the security takes the student, detained before calling sworn LEO, to their office to answer their questions.. does miranda apply? if criminal charges are levied, would the statements made be inadmissible unless they were spontaneous in nature?
                          In the situation you describe, campus security is not acting as an agent of the police or government but instead, is acting as an agent of the private school. As such, they are not required to give a Miranda warning and anything the student says is admissible. OTOH, if one of your officers chases a suspect onto campus, loses him, gives a description to campus security and tells them to "grab him" if they see him, then school personnel are acting as agents of the police and Miranda would apply.
                          Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by L-1
                            Believe it or not, the gurus on this are the Tow Officers at your local CHP office
                            I might have to share this with one of our officers who's child goes to the one that is in question.. he was the one that mentioned it to me and how it really bothered him... he would just call your local CHP and ask for the tow officer? or is it something that is not in every local office? i never even knew there was such a thing, you learn something new everyday!

                            Originally posted by L-1
                            In the situation you describe, campus security is not acting as an agent of the police or government but instead, is acting as an agent of the private school. As such, they are not required to give a Miranda warning and anything the student says is admissible
                            so basically, if campus security was not acting as an agent of police, and searched a room/found a suspect, and detained him for questioning for the purpose of enforcing academic/university punishment, they could theoretically hold the student indefinately without allowing them to call a lawyer/refuse questioning/etc.. when does this turn into false imprisonment? that seems somewhat ridiculous to allow a non-trained person to have the power/ability to do this..

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              It would seem the students have previously agreed to cooperate with school officials in lieu of further disciplinary action. Security can’t detain them student but they (security) can inform the dean’s office of the student’s refusal to cooperate. In short, the student can walk away but he could be subject to suspension or expulsion.

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