Administrative Policies

AD81 Independence of the University Police and Public Safety

Policy Status: 


Subject Matter Expert: 

Michael Wade Smith,

Policy Steward: 

Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff


  • Policy
  • Further Information

    This Policy applies to the University's Office of Police and Public Safety on the University Park Campus and, as appropriate, to the University's police and security functions on all Penn State campuses. The University's Office of Police and Public Safety provides police and public safety services to the University community. Their work includes but extends beyond traditional law enforcement functions (see The University Police draw their legal authority as law enforcement officers from the Administrative Code of 1929. When engaged in law enforcement, the University Police act according to their professional and legal obligations as police officers. They owe these obligations to and perform law enforcement duties for the protection and safety of the public, including University employees and students as well as the broader community. The University is committed to protecting the independence of the police so that they can carry out their law enforcement functions unfettered by interference from the administration or others at the University.

    When the University Police are investigating possible criminal conduct by University employees or students, they will notify and coordinate with University officials as they deem appropriate. When to notify University officials and what information to provide is a matter for the University Police to decide based on their judgment as to the needs of their investigation, the protection of public safety, and the rights of individuals. The University will not interfere with criminal investigations by the University Police. If any University Police officer believes there is any such interference, they are encouraged to report this immediately to their supervisor and/or to call the University hotline. The University is committed to a policy of protecting all members of the University community, including University Police, from retaliation for raising any concerns about wrongdoing, including interference with their duties.

    It is the policy of the University Police to draw on the resources of other law enforcement agencies if a potential conflict of interest exists. The University will not interfere with criminal investigations involving the University by these authorities.

    There are occasions when the University Police need support and direction from the University to properly perform their duties. For example, when the University is itself the victim of a crime- for example, embezzlement, or theft of University property, or trespass on University property- it is appropriate for the University, as a possible victim, to communicate to the University Police as any other victim would be entitled and expected to do. In addition, there are situations where the University Police need legal interpretation and direction from the University's Office of General Counsel regarding legal issues - for example, application of the First Amendment to activities on University property.

    Further, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Business and others in the University administration provide budgetary, administrative, HR and other support and direction to the Office of Police and Public Safety. In these and other cases, it is not interference for the University administration to provide support and direction to the University Police.

    The Senior Vice President for Finance and Business, the Assistant Vice President for Public Safety and University Police, and the University's Vice President and General Counsel will periodically confer on the issues covered by this Policy to ensure that the independence of the Police is properly protected and the Police are receiving appropriate legal and administrative support from the University.


    For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Administration.

    Most Recent Changes:

    • February 27, 2014 - Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.

    Revision History (and effective dates):

    • April 25, 2013 - New policy.


    Date Approved: 

    April 22, 2013

    Date Published: 

    April 25, 2013

    Effective Date: 

    April 25, 2013