For 30 years Wayne State University’s officers have patrolled not just the school’s urban campus, but the surrounding neighborhoods as well. As a result, area residents and businesses have come to rely upon the campus cops, who have the reputation of responding much more quickly to calls than their counterparts at the Detroit Police Department.
But that service could now be in jeopardy, with the outcome dependent on Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver. What he intends to do, however, is anybody’s guess, since he and his staff ignored faxed questions and numerous calls from News Hits.
The situation is the result of changes at the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), a state policy-making body that tracks Michigan’s 23,000 officers. Traditionally, the commission has been responsible for ensuring all cops are properly trained and certified. Recently, however, its authority to oversee funding for training was expanded. Consequently, MCOLES is requiring all university police agencies to become full-fledged departments, says Gary Ruffinni, MCOLES’ executive section manager.
Until now, WSU cops have been sworn by Detroit’s chief of police, technically putting them under his command — even though they are paid by the university and are part of a university police structure. The state commission wants this fuzzy line of authority cleared up and is requiring that the university create its own department with officers who are sworn by the school, making them completely independent.
Bill King, chief of the campus police department, expects that to happen within six months.
Which means Oliver must decide if he wants cops outside his command working city neighborhoods. Already facing severe staffing problems, you’d think the decision would be a no-brainer. But even Wayne State officials aren’t certain what’s gong to happen. A meeting with Oliver to discuss the situation was scheduled for last week, but the chief had to cancel. He did have a full plate, what with an indictment handed down accusing a DPD employee of lifting a few hundred pounds of cocaine from the evidence locker over the years.
“We are looking at rescheduling,” says King.
Restricting campus cops would be a blow to the area, says Kenneth Davies, co-chair of the Midtown Alliance, an association of university-area business owners: “It would have a negative impact. Those of us who have lived here for decades know the number [for campus police] is 577-2222, and they are there in 40 seconds. And calling 911 will not get you as fast a response.”
When Detroit police respond to News Hits’ calls, we’ll let you know what Oliver decides.Send comments to [email protected]