Trustees expand campus police authority, hire new auditing firm

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Public Safety officers will soon have jurisdictional authority beyond campus property and throughout Putnam County if the university says it can afford a potential increase in its insurance premiums.

Members of the university's board of trustees approved this and other measures over the weekend in their first meeting of the calendar year at LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort in Naples, Fla.

Cindy Babington, vice president for student life, said the proposal would allow campus police to pursue drunk drivers and other offenders off campus.

That authority currently ends at the streets surrounding university property.

The new policy stems from an Indiana state statute approved by the legislature last spring that allows for universities and colleges in the state to expand the jurisdictional authority of their campus police.

Under the legislation, universities can extend statewide police powers to their campus police force. The DePauw trustees, however, only widened Public Safety's scope to Putnam County.

While Public Safety officers receive the same training as officers of the state, they report directly to the university, a private institution.

Still, Babington said she is "not worried at all" about a potential conflict of interest between the university's wishes and enforcing state law.

Kelsey Kauffman, a university professor and director of the DePauw Environmental Policy Project, followed the legislation closely when it was debated in the Statehouse last spring.

She said extending statewide police powers to Public Safety could have invited potential lawsuits but the positives of the trustees' more limited resolution would outweigh the negatives.

Among other things, the increased authority would allow public safety officers to obtain search warrants for off-campus property and provide additional help to local authorities if, for example, the county experienced a major emergency.

Public Safety could also provide security details from the Greencastle airport to campus for prominent officials and dignitaries.

Babington, who oversees Public Safety, said the Putnam County Sheriff's Office and Greencastle Police Department both supported the increased authority.

The proposal also received support from student government and the Student Life and Academic Atmosphere Committee in discussions last fall.

Senior Charles Pierre, student body president, said the measure would allow the Greencastle police and Public Safety officers to better protect the Greencastle community.

Pierre said he was initially worried the expansion would pull officers away from enforcing student security on campus but changed his mind after learning that Public Safety patrols would not be affected.

"DePauw students are their main concern," Pierre said. "This will just make their [Public Safety's] force a little more prevalent in town."

Angela Nally, director of Public Safety, was unavailable for contact in time for publication.

At the trustees weekend meeting, the board also approved resolutions to change university tuition and hire a new auditing firm.

Christopher Wells, vice president for communication and strategic initiatives, confirmed there would be a change in tuition but was not willing to comment on a specific number.

The university is expected to release details of the new tuition numbers later today.

After over 50 years of business with a previous auditing firm, the university has hired Crowe Horwath LLP.

Kevin Kessinger, associate vice president for finance, said the university stands to save around $100,000 over the next three years because of the change.

The trustees further discussed fundraising priorities for the university, Wells said, outlining support of faculty, student experience and need-based financial aid as target areas.

According to Wells, the trustees also openly endorsed Mark McCoy, dean of the School of Music, and his vision for the college's future after a presentation to the board.

The board of trustees meets three times each year in the fall, winter and spring. The fall and spring meetings usually take place on campus while the winter meeting moves to a different off-campus location each year.