HARRISBURG – Legislation to make it easier for State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities to hire campus police officers has been overwhelmingly approved by the House and Senate and is now awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.
The action was applauded by the bill’s sponsors, Reps. Clint Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter), Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) and Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana), who represent Mansfield, Clarion and Indiana universities, respectively.
House Bill 1988
would place campus police departments and campus police officers at PASSHE schools under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Officers’ Education Training and Commission (MPOETC) for police certification, commission and training. The change would allow a campus officer to be immediately employed by a state system campus police force rather than having to go through a potentially months-long process of obtaining a commission from the governor via the state Department of Education.
Officers who complete MPOETC training can be immediately employed by municipal police departments and state-related university campuses; only those who wish to work on state system campuses are required to go through the extra step of obtaining a commission from the state. This, the lawmakers said, puts state system campuses at a disadvantage when recruiting officers.
“Campus security is more important than ever, and this simple and sensible change to the law will make it easier for campus leaders to meet the public safety needs of students, faculty and staff,” Owlett said. “I appreciate the bipartisan support for the measure and encourage prompt action by the Senate.”
“Removing this unnecessary and duplicative paperwork will help make our campuses safer because it will allow officers to get to work that much faster,” Oberlander said.
“Campuses like Indiana University of Pennsylvania and its PASSHE counterparts are experiencing staffing shortages like many other entities in today’s world,” Struzzi said. “I’m glad to see my House colleagues unanimously advance this legislation so we can move closer to full security complements and ensuring safe education environments.”
House Bill 1988 would also ensure recent and future reforms to laws impacting law enforcement apply automatically to campus police officers. It would also authorize state system campus police officers to wear body cameras, furthering increasing campus police accountability and public trust.
Finally, the bill was amended by the Senate to permit school police officers, who were previously certified by MPOETC, to maintain their certification. Under current law, MPOETC certification expires two years from the date of issuance and, because school districts do not fall within the definition of a “law enforcement agency,” MPOETC cannot recertify school police officers. Accordingly, MPOETC-certified school police officers lose their certification when they work for a school for over two years.
If signed by the governor, the law would take effect immediately.
Representative Clint Owlett, 68th District
Representative Donna Oberlander, 63rd District
Representative Jim Struzzi, 62nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives