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City University of New York Public Safety Department

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City University of New York Public Safety Department
Common name CUNY Public Safety
Abbreviation CUNY PSD

"Service - Integrity - Pride"

"Protecting and Serving the University Community"
Agency overview
Formed 1992
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction New York, New York, USA
Map of New York Highlighting New York City.svg
Map of City University of New York Public Safety Department's jurisdiction.
Legal jurisdiction New York State
General nature • Local civilian agency

Campus Peace Officers 700+
Campus Security Assistants 300+
Agency executive
  • William Barry, University Director of Public Safety

24 Colleges

All colleges operated by the City University of New York

The City University of New York Public Safety Department (CUNY Public Safety), is a public safety agency in New York City. The department is tasked with protecting campuses owned by the City University of New York (CUNY) and to enforce state and city laws within campus grounds, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The CUNY Public Safety Department serves and protects more than 274,000 students, 45,000 faculty members and other employees, along with 300-plus buildings, throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York.[1]


In 1990 under the order of then University Chancellor, W. Ann Reynolds, the CUNY Public Safety Department was formed after CUNY found a need to provide public safety services for its own community. The Public Safety Department at each of the CUNY campuses is headed by Directors. These Directors eventually were designated as Chiefs. The first officers to be brought on were sergeants retired from New York City Police Department. These officers laid the groundwork for a department that would grow to 600 members strong. In 1991 the first patrol officers were added to the ranks. These new patrol officers and their sergeants were designated as Special Patrolmen and were sworn in by the New York City Police Commissioner. After a few years, the officers received recognition by the State of New York as Peace Officers. In time the ranks of Corporal, Lieutenant and Specialist were introduced.

Reporting directly to the Director of their respective command, there are three types of Specialist: Crime Prevention/Investigations, Electronics Service, and Fire Safety. In recent years, the rank of Deputy Chief and Director has been added to the rank structure.

As of September 2011, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has officially employed CUNY Public Safety Sergeants, phasing out the student-employed Public Safety Field Supervisor position. The student position of Public Safety Officer was phased out in January 2013.


There are eight titles (referred to as ranks) in the City University of New York Public Safety Department:

Title Insignia Uniform Shirt Color
4 Gold Stars.svg
Deputy Chief
3 Gold Stars.svg
1 Gold Star.svg
US-O1 insignia.svg

NYPD Sergeant Stripes.svg
Dark Blue
Corporal 2.png
Dark Blue
Dark Blue
Campus Peace Officer
Dark Blue


  • A deadly stampede during a 1991 celebrity basketball game at City College of New York organized by Sean "Puffy" Combs and rapper Heavy D sparked CUNY to upgrade its level of security on its campuses. The tragic incident at City College left 8 people dead and 29 injured.[2]
  • In the 1990s, CUNY suffered student take overs of its campuses during tuition hike protests. Students locked the University Administration out and were removed only after the New York City Police Department was called in. These two incidents prompted the University to speed its development of an in house public safety force that it could use to enforce university policy as well as the laws of New York State.
  • On September 11, 2001, the city was the target of terrorist attacks. CUNY's Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) lost an academic building called Fiterman Hall due to the collapse of the World Trade Center. The City University of New York BMCC Campus is the only higher education institution to have been directly affected by the 9/11 attacks. During the rescue and recovery operation for the World Trade Center, the Port Authority Police Department set up headquarters at CUNY's BMCC campus. The CUNY Public Safety SAFE Team evacuated neighboring apartment complexes such as Independence Plaza and assisted in area access control.


The CUNY Public Safety S.A.F.E Unit patch

Depending on location and training, officers can be selected for specialized units that allow the agency to better serve the community. Some of these units include:

Uniformed Patrol

Officers patrol on foot, on bicycles, segways, in marked and unmarked patrol cars. These patrols are on campus and in neighborhoods which the university is located in.

Bike Patrol

The patrol unit is part of the Uniformed Patrol. Officers are required to complete a 5-day intensive course to qualify in pursuit bicycle handling, bicycle safety, patrol techniques, and maintenance.

Emergency Medical Services

There are many officers throughout that are Emergency Medical Technicians. Though ordinary trained as peace officers, these officers are NYS certified Emergency Medical Technicians. Many members of the department are volunteers. CUNY has not yet obtained an Operating Certificate to be recognized by NYSDOH, NYCREMSCO & FDNY to operate as an EMS provider.

Canine Unit

Currently there is only one member of the unit. Over the years, there have been five German shepherds in the CUNY Canine unit. The K-9 officers go through 17 weeks of training provided by the Yonkers Police Department and they receive Certification from the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services. After the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11, the CUNY K-9 Unit dispatched four dogs to assist during the response, whose dogs were suffering from burned paws and smoke inhalation. Currently, there is only one member of the unit. In 1992, the unit won a national competition for best canine unit. They outperformed units from various agencies including, the New York City, Suffolk County and Nassau County Police Departments.

Civil Disturbance Response Unit (SAFE Team)

The CUNY Public Safety Department has a team of officers who are responsible for a multitude of emergency services throughout CUNY in New York City to include, but not limited to: major emergencies, large demonstrations, building takeovers, large social functions, and other events deemed to need public safety services.[3]

Emergency Management

During times of extreme emergencies, CUNY Public Safety operates 10 evacuation centers throughout New York City. CUNY is part of the NYC Coastal Storm Plan Emergency Sheltering System. These centers were opened during the extreme snow storms of 2010 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. During Hurricane Sandy, Currently many officers have training through Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and other FEMA programs. When these emergencies are in effect, In addition, CUNY Public Safety has many officers that are Fire Safety Directors. Fire Safety Director are responsible for implementing the building's fire prevention and safety plans. Their duties are various. They must maintains records and performs inspections as required by New York City law. Also, they must conduct, supervise and evaluate all fire drills.

Public Safety Academy

The Public Safety Academy is a regional training facility that trains many different agencies from around the Greater New York City area. Some of these agencies are, but limited to, New York City Department of Health and Hospitals Special Officers, New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission Enforcement, Brooklyn Public Library, New York State Liquor Authority, New York City Administration of Children Services, New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, New York City Department of Health and Hygiene, New York State Office of the Inspector General, New York State Unified Court System,[4] New York State Department of Finance . The academy is responsible for the initial 13 week CUNY Campus Public Safety Officers Course, annual training and additional training on law enforcement issues and topics. Each year the academy trains over 2,500 officers in over 100 topics mandated by the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services.[5] All instructors are New York State certified.

Future of operations and units

The restructuring of the S.A.F.E Team to be more reflective of other emergency response units throughout the New York City area is also under consideration. Also, individual colleges are developing crime prevention, domestic violence and investigations programs to provide more services to the university.[6]


CUNY Officers do not carry firearms but are equipped with an expandable baton, pepper spray, handcuffs, flashlight, bulletproof vest, and a portable two-way radio. Officers at times carry firearms after receiving a handgun permit by the New York City Police Department. The individual college President sets the policy on his or her campus regarding the carrying of firearms for outside Law Enforcement agencies attending or visiting.[7]

Power and authority

Under New York state law, peace officers—including those employed by the City University of New York Public Safety Department—have the power to make arrests for less-serious misdemeanors as well as for felonies, and they may enforce other statutes such a local bylaws. These powers are limited to the "geographic area" in which the peace officer is employed (such as a city, town, or college campus). When peace officers are outside their geographic area of employment, but still within the state of New York, their powers are reduced and they are only permitted to make felony arrests.[8]

Line of duty deaths

Officer Date of death Cause of death
Deputy Chief John P. McKee[9] 9/11-related illness

See also


External links