The difference between what now-former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing said happened when he confronted Samuel DuBose and what the body camera video of the incident showed could not have been starker. Tensing claimed he stopped DuBose on July 17 for a missing front license plate and then was dragged by DuBose's car when the 43-year-old father of 10 allegedly struggled with him.
What the video appeared to show was DuBose fumbling to find his driver's license, then Tensing trying to open the car's door and DuBose closing it and restarting the vehicle. In the next few hectic moments the 25-year-old officer reached in, yelled 'stop,' and then drew his gun and shot DuBose once in the head at point-blank range.
Tensing - who was fired by the university on Wednesday after being charged with first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter - was part of the 44,000-student university's armed police force.
According to a Justice Department survey released in January, as of the 2011-2012 academic year around 75% of four-year public colleges and universities had armed officers, compared to 68% eight years earlier. The numbers are even higher for public campuses (92%) and the survey revealed that 94% of sworn campus police were authorized to use a gun and chemical spray.
That got us wondering: do university police officers have the same powers and training as the ones you see on your city's streets and why do we need a separate force for colleges?
The answers, according to William Taylor, the president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators are complicated.
Campus Cops Are Police Officers, Straight Up
One of the common misconceptions is that campus police officers are somehow not as "official" as the beat cops you see on city streets.
"They're police officers," Taylor told MTV News, noting that campus police became popular after the repeated unrest at universities in the 1970s over the Vietnam war and other social ills. At that time, schools realized they needed officers who were better equipped to deal with conflict with young people who were not criminals, as well as with the emotional and mental health issues that college students sometimes struggle with.
"They go to the same academies and they all have to meet the minimum requirement for training that you do to become a municipal police officer that the state requires. If you are a police officer at the University of Cincinnati you are up to the same standard as a Cincinnati Police Department officer. CPD might give more training, but just because you're A college officer doesn't mean you haven't been or might later be a municipal officer."
In fact, in some cases, he said, campus police might have more training in different skill sets because of the unique nature of college campuses. Things you might not need as a beat cop, such as being sensitive in a crisis intervention situation, or dealing with students and administrators in conflict. That might be even more reason for them to have body cameras, because not only do they occasionally deal with non-student perpetrators, but they also have to react in a completely different fashion when dealing with the campus population.
And in an age when pretty much everyone on campus has a smart phone with a video camera they can use to film officers, police need the evidence a body camera provides -- even more in case an incident comes under review.
While most public colleges and universities have officers with arresting powers who are armed, most private institutions have unarmed non-police security services. And UC, like a number of other colleges, also has a memorandum of agreement with CPD that allows the two departments to work together to patrol the area "within and around the campus community."
Following Wednesday's charging, there were calls from Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to disband the UC police force and allow CPD to take over enforcement on the university's urban campus; University officials said they had no intention of doing so.
Where Does The Campus End And The Neighborhood Begin?
In the DuBose case, the shooting occurred off campus (after the victim's car was spotted just south of campus without a front license plate by the officer), which begs the question: "Was Officer Tensing even allowed to be where he was?"
Taylor has no first-hand knowledge of the case, but he said as many universities have grown and expanded in urban areas, their formal boundaries have changed, and sometimes city streets run through or parallel to campus. "Having campus police armed is as important as having municipal forces armed," he said. "The expectation for campus officers is to behave differently, but there are no walls or fences around campuses."
Though Taylor said college campuses are, in general, safer than the communities around them, an officer serving on campus "might be dealing with a Nobel laureate one minute and within seconds he might be dealing with an armed robber." In Tensing's case, officials said the UC police shared jurisdiction with city officers on the streets around campus where the incident unfolded, though Tensing pulled DuBose over a few blocks outside of that zone.
That's one of the reasons why, Taylor said, it's important that campus police be able to shift from dealing with the campus environment to a more traditional crime scene on a dime, even if that scene takes them outside of their "official" jurisdiction.