Union Rules Block More Policing In OSU’s University District

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OSU Police is banned from regular patrols of most of the University District because of an agreement between CPD and the Fraternal Order of Police.(Photo: University Area Commission)
OSU Police is banned from regular patrols of most of the University District because of an agreement between CPD and the Fraternal Order of Police.(Photo: University Area Commission)

As concerns about crime in and around the Ohio State University campus grown, so do calls for more police officers and better coordination between police.

But the Columbus Division of Police and OSU Police continue to struggle over a mutual aid agreement to police one of the most densely-packed neighborhoods in the nation.

The University District

The neighborhood east of High Street is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of the OSU campus. The vast majority of residents are OSU students, crammed into apartment buildings and fraternity houses.

But it’s not officially part of the OSU campus, so OSU Police officers cannot patrol the area, or even cross the street to help.

“The students themselves asked ‘why couldn’t university police officers patrol their neighborhoods,’” Denton said.

At least part of the reason is an agreement with the union representing Columbus police officer.

Aging Agreement Between Columbus and OSU

Most of the University District lies in the jurisdiction of the Columbus Division of Police. The basic rules: OSU police patrol campus property and buildings, and Columbus police patrol the area around campus.

Neither can operate independently on the other’s turf.

But the two agencies do corporate under a mutual aid agreement put in place in 1992.

“They can ask us to help them, we can ask them to help us,” says Columbus Police Commander Terry Moore. “But it doesn’t go beyond that. They don’t have jurisdiction to act independently in the city of Columbus.”

The mutual aid agreement has not been updated in 20 years, and OSU Police Chief Denton says it needs to be.

OSU Cops Want To Help

Denton says the increased awareness in crime has raised concerns among parents, students and staff. He wants to give OSU officers authority to patrol streets just off campus.

He says an increased police presence would help drive down crime.

“So anything that we can do to respond, to assist, to support Columbus police, to support the students, I think would have value in that regard.”

Denton says the patrols would help reduce crime, but Commander Moore says there is no evidence to support that claim.

“To speculate and say that more officers in a given area is going to have a specific effect is something that you can’t…you can’t say that specifically.”

Denton says OSU Police already has open ended mutual aid agreements with 3 neighboring police departments,Upper Arlington, Bexley and Clinton township.

“When I look across the state of Ohio, and the country I see examples of mutual aid agreements and jurisdictional agreements between campus agencies and their city counterparts that are very broad and open ended,” Denton says.

And Denton stresses OSU property would remain his officers main priority.

“Primarily, we want our officers to patrol campus and university property first and foremost, which means residence halls, academic areas, our facilities, the medical center. All of those are where our officers should be deployed first and foremost.”

Union Rules Block Expansion

CPD Commander Moore says in order to establish an expanded mutual aid agreement between the two departments, it would have to serve four purposes.

“It benefits OSU it benefits the City of Columbus, and it benefits the residents. And then the officers that work for both agencies,” Moore says.

The city of Columbus, the mayor’s office, OSU Police and Columbus Police have been in talks for quite sometime now, but Denton says the time frame for establishing joint jurisdiction is undefined.

“I really cant give you a time frame, there are very complex legal, contractual issues, operational issues that we have to still work through and discuss, and formalize in some respect.”

By contractual issues, Denton means Columbus Police currently has a union contract with the Fraternal Order of Police that does not allow the city to contract out any police work to other agencies.

One potential hold up is deciding whether allowing OSU poice cars to assist in the off-campus area violates the contract out clause. While Columbus Police works through revising its contract with the Fraternal Order of Police it might be quite sometime, if ever, before OSU Police cars can cross high Street in an effort to help students.

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