Department of Public Safety
Peace Officer FAQ
In March 2013, 25 members of the University's Department of Security Services were sworn in as the first group of peace officers, embarking upon a five-month training and certification program for this new distinction. Additionally, to more accurately reflect the purpose and services of the department, the Department of Security Services has changed its name to the Department of Public Safety, effective September 1, 2013.
Below are additional details on peace officers at the University.
What is a peace officer?
A peace officer is an appointed individual who has the sworn authority to make arrests, including warrantless arrests under specified conditions, complete warrantless searches, and investigate all manner of criminal and non-criminal offenses. The specific provisions of University Public Safety are listed in subdivision 83 of section 2.10 of the criminal procedure law. Effective in February 2017, a limited number of Peace Officers will be armed with handguns in specialized duty assignments primarily in the University Medical Center.
How is a peace officer different from a police officer?
Generally speaking, there is very little difference in the powers of a police officer and a peace officer. The main distinction is that peace officers’ powers of arrest are limited to the scope of the duties of their employment and, in our case, only on property owned or operated by the University.
Why did the University support this move to peace officer/sworn status?
Peace officer status was sought after a deliberate, comprehensive and thoughtful review of security and safety issues at the University by a Security Commission comprised of employees and students, which conducted a complete assessment of the UR safety efforts. The review was in consultation with the security team, local law enforcement and the University community. After several months of review and discussion, the Security Commission released several recommendations to President Seligman, including seeking peace officer status for a portion of the Public Safety staff.
Will all current Public Safety staff become peace officers?
No. At this time peace officer status will be for a component of the University’s Public Safety team. In the four years since implementation of peace officer status, 80 members of the Department have been sworn which include members of patrol, investigations and supervisory staff. Of those 80 Sworn, approximately 40 are now armed Peace Officers and are primarily assigned to the Medical Center.
What different duties/functions will peace officers have?
Peace officers and Public Safety officers will have the same duties except that peace officers will be able to arrest for a criminal offense.
Will peace officers be able to place an individual under mental health arrest?
Yes. This is an important aspect of peace officer authority. It will allow an officer to immediately take an individual into custody during a life-threatening situation.
Will peace officers have different uniforms and equipment?
Peace officers and non-sworn Public Safety Officers will wear the same dark navy blue uniforms. Peace Officers will wear badges on the chest of their uniform shirts. Peace officers will carry pepper gel, batons and handcuffs. Public Safety staff will carry pepper gel and handcuffs.
What training /certification is needed?
Appointed University officers are receiving 600 hours of peace officer instruction at the Monroe County Public Safety Training Facility. This is over 50 hours of additional training beyond what is mandated by the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services. And this is in addition to 500+ hours of basic training all patrol staff receive. Armed Peace Officers receive a minimum of 96 additional hours of training, which must be completed in order to become certified by NYS to carry the handguns while working as sworn Peace Officers.
What areas are peace officers able to patrol/respond to?
Sworn unarmed peace officers will be deployed to roving posts (both on foot and in vehicles), to respond quickly to all areas of the University. Sworn armed peace officers will be assigned primarily to the University Medical Center in specialized duty assignments.
Will peace officers or public safety officers carry firearms or other defensive equipment?
In the spring of 2017, a limited number of Peace Officers who have been trained and certified by New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services will be authorized to carry handguns in specifically assigned areas. As noted above, peace officers will carry pepper gel and batons, while public safety officers will carry just pepper gel. The armed sworn peace officers will additionally carry handguns.
Will I get better service/response from a peace officer?
You will receive the same professional response, whether from a public safety officer or a peace officer.
Will the Rochester Police Department continue to respond as requested or needed?
Yes. They will continue to support the Department of Public Safety as they have done in the past. They will be contacted in most felony offense investigations, any weapons situations, and in transporting prisoners to jail. Public Safety has signed memorandum of understandings with area law enforcement agencies to establish response protocols.
Will peace officers now be guarding patient prisoners at Strong Memorial Hospital?
No, they will continue to be guarded by the agency that has custody of the individual.
Will peace officers be required to arrest for any criminal offense they observe?
No. Public Safety will still be able to divert most minor offenses involving staff and students into the judicial and disciplinary processes currently used at the University.
What about domestic violence cases?
Domestic violence cases are the only exception to the previous question. New York State law requires that for certain designated offenses, persons in a domestic relationship as defined in the law must be arrested, even if the victim does not desire criminal action.
Who can I call if I have any additional questions?
You can call Public Safety headquarters at 275-3437 during normal business hours and your question will be directed to the appropriate person. As always, if you have an emergency, please call the communications center at 275-3333, 24 hours a day.