Professor calls for arrest powers for DPS

IMG_9139After a call by a criminology professor for the commissioning of Department of Public Safety officers on campus last month, DPS Captain Russell Shaw declined to comment on the idea Tuesday.

Richard Zevitz, a professor of criminology and the former division director for the Sheriff’s Department in San Francisco, argued that the delegation of police powers to qualified DPS officers would improve security and safety on campus in a letter to the Tribune published March 26.

“Under such a delegation, qualified members of Marquette’s DPS would receive certification by the State of Wisconsin authorizing them to detain suspects and make arrests based on probable cause, to conduct searches and seizures within the strict limits of the law and to undertake those activities presently and typically performed by campus police departments across Wisconsin,” Zevitz wrote.

Numerous private universities located in urban environments have commissioned officers in their public safety departments, including Loyola University Chicago, Saint Louis University and Northwestern University. However, some, including DePaul University, still rely on an uncommissioned public safety force.

Currently, DPS officers, though some are licensed to carry firearms, in effect only have the power of a citizen’s arrest.

Zevitz elaborated on his position Tuesday.

“(Let’s say) somebody pulls a lick (robs someone), you are on Michigan at 2:00 at night and you are going to your off-campus housing,” Zevitz said. “I sneak behind you and put a shank in your back. What are you going to do? Who are you going to call? Public Safety. If you call the Milwaukee Police, you might as well call Jimmy John’s. You call Public Safety, they are there, and their response time is excellent. They are better trained, better educated and better supervised.”

He also pointed out that the proximity of the DPS offices would make it more convenient for students to call and for DPS to respond.

Zevitz said he is pushing for DPS to be granted arrest powers so that the officers do not have to wait until the Milwaukee Police Department comes to the scene of a crime to deal with the suspect.

Although Captain Shaw did not comment on the idea of commissioning, he did acknowledge the department’s appreciation for Zevitz’s conviction that DPS is a reputable group.

“We certainly appreciate that Dr. Zevitz thinks we’re a highly professional organization, and his Viewpoint in the Trib is his own opinion, but at this time there’s nothing I can comment on in regard to his feelings about DPS and the issue of commissioning,” Shaw said.

Zevitz also made the argument that if DPS officers are armed, they should be given the right to arrest.

“They wear guns,” Zevitz said. “Think about it. If our guys and gals get there, shouldn’t they have arrest powers? If they are armed, why shouldn’t they have arrest powers? I rest my case.”

If commissioned DPS officers would have increased powers in certain capacities, Zevitz said they would be limited in others. For example, he said, Fourth Amendment protections would exist for students when it comes to dorm room searches, meaning that officers would need to have probable cause to perform a search.

“Our guys and gals will have more discretion because there is something called the Fourth Amendment where you have to have probable cause,” Zevitz said. “Right now they can search your dorm room (without probable cause).”

Comments are closed