Sign up for our Headlines morning newsletter.

The most interesting things on the web, handpicked each day. Sign up for our Headlines morning newsletter.

The Morning News Our private cops are undertrained, barely regulated, unaccountable to the public
WVU Tech campus police. Credit: James Holloway.

More cops in schools, more kids in jail

Thanks to increased funds from Obama's Justice Department (that he later regretted), there are increasing amounts of police officers in public schools—often disguised behind the benign term "school resource officers"—resulting in an even easier access point for the school-to-prison pipeline.

Indeed, analysis of National Center for Education Statistics data shows students are more likely to enter the criminal justice system if their school has a police presence—oftentimes while still enrolled in school.

That's not to mention the at least 87 Taserings of students that have happened at American public schools since September 2011.

Dec 20, 2016

When your "police officer" is untrained, unregulated, and possibly unwell

Across the country, private police are chronically undertrained and inadequately regulated. It doesn't help that the requirements to become an armed private security guard are lax in many states. Just four states require mental health evaluations. Few conduct any kind of investigation into shootings by security guards or conduct comprehensive background checksNone meet training standards set by the industry's own trade organization.

Virginia's special police, or "Special Conservators of the Peace," are private citizens who can apply to a judge for the ability to arrest people, carry a gun, direct traffic, and otherwise present themselves as police officers. There are around 750 in the state. Inevitably, there are multiple reports of them carrying out false arrests.

Nov 3, 2016

Just in case the kids decide to plant mines

Through its controversial 1033 program, the Department of Defense distributes military-grade weapons and technology to local police forces.

Among those are campus police. Records obtained by MuckRock show that the Pentagon has given thermal imaging equipment to Yale University, and passed along armored trucks to four colleges in Florida, Maryland, Texas, and Washingon. Ohio State University got a mine-resistent "ambush protected" vehicle.

Not to be outdone, the Department of Homeland Security has been training campus police officers in paramilitary-style policing since 2007.

Nov 3, 2016

The University of Chicago's private armed force is the primary police for some 65,000 Chicagoans

As municipal law enforcement agencies face more scrutiny, their private supplements—whether they be "special police" or campus police—are increasingly looking and acting their roles in the police industrial complex.

For instance, the University of Chicago's armed private police force, one of the largest campus police departments in the country, is notorious for using force to impose the University's "wall around Hyde Park"—the neighborhood containing much of the University's campus, student body, and faculty. Its role as an agent of the University reguates the behavior of not only those affiliated with the University but also the residents of the largely black surrounding neighborhoods.

The boundaries of its jurisdiction have extended far beyond the boundaries of campus, to a point where the core campus represents a minority of the total jurisdiction. As such, it is the primary police force for some 65,000 Chicagoans, most of whom have nothing to do with the University of Chicago. 

Since the UofC is a private institution, its police force does not respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, though the area's state representative has filed legislation that would require it to.

Nov 3, 2016

Campus police hassle, profile, bodyslam, and Taser people

Of course, the University of Chicago Police Department is not the only one that commits abuses while being largely unaccountable to the public.

In 2014, a black Arizona State University professor was bodyslammed by an armed campus police officer for allegedly not showing him identification while being questioned for jaywalking. (The officer later resigned.)

A black UCLA employee wearing his employee identification was arrested by campus police for allegedly not showing identification (sensing a pattern?), months after the school had settled a lawsuit—for $500,000—about campus police racially profiling black drivers.

The University of Cincinnati paid the family of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man killed by a campus police officer during a traffic stop, nearly $5 million. (The officer was indicted by a grand jury and is currently on trial.)

And let's not forget the infamous, pre-YouTube "don't tase me, bro!" viral video of a student being Tasered by a University of Florida armed cop for speaking for too long during a campus town hall with John Kerry.

Nov 3, 2016

Sometimes I’m up 24 hours, 48 hours ‘cause of the anxiety level. I’m always wondering, “Who are these special police officers? What happened?” On top of grieving and losing my son, him being murdered — not knowing what happened — makes it harder.

Colleges are not the only institutions that employ private police, obviously. Many cities authorize "special police"—essentially glorified security guards who are nonetheless deputized as law enforcement agents.
↩︎ ThinkProgress
Nov 3, 2016
More Headlines