University and Plymouth Police: A Partnership

October 1st, 2004 by Adam

Universities and the towns where they are located have a unique effect
on each other. One of the key areas where they intersect is in the area of
law enforcement. While the Plymouth State University Police’s main focus
is the campus, the officers meet all the qualifications of any municipal
police department.

The PSU police have responsibility for maintaining law enforcement
on campus and contiguous areas. In addition, the University provides
revenue to the town for life safety services such as dispatch, ambulance
and fire safety (see related story). But the PSU police have special agreements
with the towns of Plymouth and Holderness. The University police
are sworn in as officers by the selectmen of the two towns. And they
have the same authority and jurisdiction as police officers in either town.

According to PSU Police Chief John E. Clark, “We work together constantly.
If an officer in Plymouth needs assistance, we go. If one of our officers
needs assistance, they help. We mesh all the time. They need us and we
need them.

“If the University police are the first responders, even off campus, people
need to know our officers are as trained, competent and capable as any
police officer,” Clark added.

The PSU police’s 10 full-time officers and four part-time officers, just like
the Plymouth Police, are all certified by the NH Police Standards and
Training Council. The PSU and Plymouth police share briefings Thursday,
Friday and Saturday nights. In fact, the only 24-hour coverage in the area
is provided by the Plymouth and PSU departments.

Many of the University officers have received additional training in areas
such as crime prevention, crimes against women, and special unit activities,
which in the last year has involved helping with the lost child in Lincoln
and dealing with floods and other natural disasters. The University police
are currently being trained on the use of defibulators, which will be
in PSU cruisers. Those officers will be the first in the area with the
specialized training.

“Due to our connection with the University, we are able to provide
regional support and training to other police departments in the area. In
addition, we offer internal training for our officers to make sure they are
sensitive to the issues that students face,” Chief Clark noted.

In addition to certification, the Chief notes that University police have to
understand the unique needs of 18 to 24 year olds. “Many of the students
are living away from their families for the first time in their lives and that
can create certain kinds of behavior. We need officers who are able to
understand how to deal with the situations that arise from having nearly
4,000 young people all together in one place,” he added.

Many of the University officers have come to PSU after careers on town
or city police departments. Lieutenant Aaron Comeau, for instance, spent
10 years with the Plymouth Police before coming to PSU and Chief Clark
spent 13 years on the Concord Police Department, 12 years on the N.H.
Police Standards and Training Council.

But the University police often face a different set of issues than town
police officers. Chief Clark sees the role of University police as a combination
of regular law enforcement along with a parenting or mentoring role.
“That doesn’t mean we won’t address criminal behavior, because we will.
If we see someone breaking the law, we’ll arrest them,” Clark said.

He noted that having nearly 4,000 young people together in a relatively
small area brings with it the characteristics of big-city living in a small
town. It also makes for a constant transformation. “Every year we have
one-quarter of the students who are new to the University. So our
population is constantly changing,” he noted.