Lawmakers restore charging power to police at state-owned universities

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MILLERSVILLE, Pa. - Governor Tom Wolf has signed a bill restoring university police power to file charges for crimes on roads at state-owned universities.

University police at campuses across the Keystone State say they have been in a gray area for much of the year, limited in their ability to enforce the law.

“I was a little bit cautious toward having an officer there that's telling somebody lawfully to stop if we don't have the authority to enforce that as a uniformed police officer on that roadway,” Pete Anders, chief of the Millersville University police department, said.

Act 41 closes a coverage gap created by a Superior Court ruling in January.

The ruling prohibited campus police from filing charges for crimes on public roads and streets that cut through state-owned universities.

“The borough would have to have exclusive jurisdiction over those roads if they were going to be enforceable as far as policing charges,” Brett Hambright, with the Lancaster County district attorney’s office, said. “So for awhile there was no enforcement there, unfortunately.”

Lancaster County had 2 misdemeanor DUI cases that had to be dropped after the court ruling, so the D.A.'s office pushed lawmakers for change.

“We approved the charges,” Hambright said. “We were ready to take them into court, so we thought they were legit charges, and jurisdiction being one of the fundamental elements of a criminal charge, losing that, we lost the cases.”

Police at Millersville University say the law makes things more efficient, and helps them take some of the burden off the borough police department.

“Were we able to function during the past close to a year?” Anders said. “Absolutely, [but] I think it put a little more on the borough police and their staff to respond if we observed something that occurred.”

The act takes effect on November 30th.

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