Mich. court defines role of private campus police


Deputized officers must file public reports with sheriffs





MICHIGAN -- After a five-year legal battle, a state appeals court ruled in January that law enforcement officials at private colleges can be deputized by local sheriff's departments, giving them the authority to enforce the law both on and off campus.

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The decision, handed down in January by the Michigan Court of Appeals, appears to give student journalists increased access to records of arrests carried out by campus police at such schools, said Dawn Phillips Hertz, general counsel for the Michigan Press Association. It sets a precedent for colleges and universities throughout the state.

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Included in the decision is a reference to the fact that deputized police officers must file reports with the sheriff's office on arrests they make in their capacity as deputized officers.

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"I think it means that there might be more access, ultimately, as a result of this," Hertz said. "And it says 'in every such circumstance' -- I mean if they arrested somebody on campus, that would have to be reported. I don't see this as cutting back access, I see it as a chance to get more."

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The ruling came about after David Lee VanTubbergen, who was arrested by two Hope College police officers in Holland, Mich., in July 1997 and charged with drunken driving, challenged the officers' authority to make arrests off campus.

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VanTubbergen questioned the ability of the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department to deputize officers, claiming it conflicted with the separation of church and state. Hope College is affiliated with the Reformed Church of America.

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Both a state district court and the appellate court rejected VanTubbergen's claims and upheld the right of the sheriff's department to deputize officers at Hope College and nearby Grand Valley State University, and the rights of those officers to make arrests off campus.

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Donald Hann, VanTubbergen's lawyer, said he did not plan to appeal.

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CASE:

People v. VanTubbergen, 249 Mich. App. 354 (Mich. App. 2002)


reports, Spring 2002