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Are campus police “real” police officers?

The students of the University of Colorado in Boulder are pretty familiar with the sight of campus police officers making their rounds or watching over students as they go about their business – but a lot of students think of these officers as “security guards,” not actual police.

That would be a big mistake. The University of Colorado Boulder Police Department is a “full-service” entity, which means that they can – and will – arrest you if they suspect you of a serious offense.

Why do campuses have their own police forces?

In essence, it all comes down to priorities. The police force that serves the larger community usually has to focus on more serious offenses, while campus police can focus on campus-specific concerns that are disruptive to others but are typically “low-priority” for local authorities – like noise complaints and people wandering into restricted areas.

How do you interact with campus police?

If you’re a student, you need to keep in mind that the campus police should be regarded the same way that you regard any other police officer. That means:

  • Provide your identification when asked: Do not give the campus police a fake ID or a false name. That could easily get you charged with a crime, including obstruction of justice.
  • Do not make jokes or be insulting: This is not the time to exercise your right to free speech. Regardless of your personal feelings about what is happening, it’s wiser to remain polite.
  • Do exercise your right to remain silent: Anything you say can be used against you – and this is true of things you say even before you’ve been arrested. After providing your identifying information, verbally invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent by saying, “I do not wish to answer any further questions without legal guidance.”

If you’re a student who has been arrested by the campus police or you’re the parent of a student in trouble, the wisest move you can make is to explore your defense options as quickly as possible.