On September 17, PERF held a national virtual meeting to discuss collaborations between municipal police agencies and campus police. PERF was joined by six pairs of municipal and campus police leaders, along with John Bernhards, Executive Director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA).

As colleges and universities reopen for the fall session, they are dealing with many issues: outbreaks of COVID-19, demonstrations for social justice, calls to rethink how campus police operate, and traditional crime and safety concerns. These matters impact not only campus police agencies, but also their municipal police partners. Collaboration between municipal and campus police is more crucial than ever. 

Click here to view the 100-minute meeting. 

PERF will be publishing a report based on what we learned at the meeting and through our research. If you have any information or materials that you think would be helpful to us, please send them to PERF Senior Research Assistant Amanda Barber at [email protected].

The six municipal-campus pairs of police executives were:

  • Tempe, AZ: Tempe Chief Sylvia Moir and Arizona State University Chief Michael Thompson
  • Madison, WI: Madison Chief Victor Wahl and University of Wisconsin–Madison Chief Kristen Roman
  • Detroit: Detroit Assistant Chief Todd Bettison and Wayne State University Chief Anthony Holt
  • Boston: Boston Deputy Superintendent Kevin McGoldrick and Boston University Chief Kelly Nee
  • Atlanta: Atlanta Chief Rodney Bryant and Clark Atlanta University Chief Debra Williams
  • Austin, TX: Austin Assistant Chief Troy Gay and University of Texas at Austin Chief David Carter.

The idea for this meeting came from Tempe Chief Sylvia Moir, who serves as PERF President, and Arizona State University Chief Michael Thompson.

“I grew up in a college town in Davis, California, and I understood how a college town is different,” Chief Moir said. “It might have complexities that you won’t find in other cities. And the town is enriched by the college in a way that is unique and different. In this time of policing, there’s an increased necessity that we avoid tension and conflict as we provide services and safeguard people. In this time that we’re in, any tension is exploited, so we have to avoid that.”

“In a municipality, police deal with all the folks who live and work in the community,” Chief Thompson said. “On a university campus, we have people coming in from across the country and the world, and they bring a lot of the concerns and issues they’ve had in those communities with them to the university. So you end up addressing issues that may not really pertain to what’s happening on your campus. But those issues are very real to the students."

Chuck Wexler and Tempe Chief of Police Sylvia Moir

Following are a few of the key takeaways from the meeting:

--  Even as COVID-19 cases have spiked on some campuses, municipal and campus police leaders agree that ensuring compliance with COVID guidelines should not be a policing issue.

Whether it involves wearing masks on campus or limiting the size of house parties off campus, police are emphasizing education over enforcement. And except in egregious situations, they believe violations should be handled through a school’s code of conduct system, not the criminal justice system. 

--  Safety is a top concern of college and university students and especially their parents; campus and municipal police must work together to promote safety on and off campus.

Information and intelligence-sharing, joint training and exercises, and regular meetings among municipal and campus police officials are examples of how collaboration can be facilitated. Many agencies have formalized these arrangements through memoranda of agreement/understanding.

--  Some student groups have called for defunding their campus police, or making changes such as disarming officers.  However, these ideas have not gained traction with school administrators.

Although the University of Minnesota recently decided to scale back its relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, other colleges and universities do not seem to be moving in that direction.

--  Active shooters and other serious crimes on campus remain a major concern.

In many areas, campus and municipal police agencies have trained together and held joint exercises on handling critical incidents. Now, there is concern that budget cuts among both campus and municipal departments could reduce available resources and undermine preparedness for and response to active shooters.

--  Because campus police have frequent and regular contacts with students, faculty, and staff members, many campus police agencies have embraced the philosophy of community policing for years.

Expanding community policing and developing joint initiatives with municipal police departments are priorities for many university police leaders. Formal agreements, joint patrols, and other cooperative efforts are examples of how this is being operationalized.


This project is part of PERF’s Critical Issues in Policing series, which is supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.