Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Criminal Law - Campus Policing - University Police Officer Shoots and Kills Non-University-Affiliated Motorist during Off-Campus Traffic Stop - the Shooting of Samuel DuBose

Academic journal article Harvard Law Review

Criminal Law - Campus Policing - University Police Officer Shoots and Kills Non-University-Affiliated Motorist during Off-Campus Traffic Stop - the Shooting of Samuel DuBose

Article excerpt

Criminal Law--Campus Policing--University Police Officer Shoots and Kills Non-University-Affiliated Motorist During Off-Campus Traffic Stop.--The Shooting of Samuel DuBose.

In many ways, the shooting of Samuel DuBose appears to fit an all-too-familiar pattern of police violence. (1) On the evening of July 19, 2015, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Officer Raymond Tensing--who is white--stopped DuBose--who was black--for a minor moving violation. (2) After DuBose was unable to produce his driver's license, Tensing directed him to remove his seatbelt and tried to open DuBose's driver's side car door. (3) "I didn't even do nothing," DuBose protested, as he held his door closed and turned the key to his car's ignition. (4) Yelling for DuBose to stop, Tensing reached for him with one hand and his service weapon with the other. He then fired one shot--killing DuBose instantly. (5) Although Tensing claimed that he discharged his weapon only after being dragged by DuBose's vehicle, (6) his body camera footage plainly contradicted his account. (7) In announcing Tensing's indictment for murder, the county prosecutor condemned the officer's actions as "asinine," adding: "It's an absolute tragedy in 2015 that anyone would behave in this manner.... [Tensing] lost his temper because Mr. DuBose wouldn't get out of his car quick enough. (8)

There are any number of narratives that might be spun from DuBose's killing. However, one especially notable aspect of this particular instance of police violence is that Tensing was an officer of the University of Cincinnati (UC) Police Department--yet he pulled DuBose over on a public street several blocks south of UC's campus.' DuBose was neither affiliated with the university, nor suspected of committing a crime on university property or against a university-affiliated individual. (10) That he was nonetheless stopped, seized, shot, and killed by a UC police officer casts new light upon the increasing role that colleges and universities play in policing the public at large. Although campus police departments have come to take on many of the characteristics of traditional police forces, they remain troublingly insulated from democratic control and public oversight.

How DuBose found himself on the other end of a campus police officer's gun warrants further explanation. While campus police departments have existed for well over a century, they initially served a largely "custodial" function. (11) But as colleges and universities began experiencing rapid growth in the mid-twentieth-century--and as instances of student unrest began occurring with greater frequency--school administrators increasingly sought to recast campus police departments in the mold of their municipal counterparts. (12)

To that end, state legislatures, as well as state and local police departments, proved to be willing facilitators. (13) By the turn of the millennium, most states had passed laws authorizing campus "policing" in some form. (14) Ohio, for example, not only permits private and public colleges and universities to "appoint" or "designate" campus police officers, but also vests those officers with full law enforcement power. (15) In states where no such laws exist--or for officers of private institutions not covered by state law (16)--state or local law enforcement agencies commonly deputize campus police officers, thereby "enabling the [campus] police to exercise state police powers." (17)

Today, it is customary for colleges and universities to be patrolled by campus officers who are nearly indistinguishable from municipal officers in both appearance and practice. (18) Student activism may no longer pose the same threat to the higher education establishment that it once did, (19) but both federal law and market forces have increased awareness (and, arguably, concerns) about campus safety. (20) And in this era of recurring mass shootings, armed campus police departments are often seen as necessary elements of the quasi municipalities that many colleges and universities have become. …

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