City University of New York Public Safety Department

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City University of New York Department of Public Safety
Common name City University of New York Public Safety
Abbreviation CUNY DPS
Patch of the City University of New York Department of Public Safety

"Service - Integrity - Pride"

"Protecting and Serving the University Community"
Agency overview
Formed 1992
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
Operations jurisdiction* City of New York in the state of New York, USA
Map of New York Highlighting New York City.svg
Map of City University of New York Department of Public Safety's jurisdiction.
Legal jurisdiction New York State
General nature
Specialist jurisdiction Buildings and lands occupied or explicitly controlled by the educational institution and the institution's personnel, and public entering the buildings and immediate precincts of the institution.
Operational structure
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
* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.

The City University of New York Public Safety Department (CUNY Public Safety) is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in New York City and the largest university law enforcement department in the nation. The department is tasked with protecting all campuses owned by the City University of New York (CUNY) and to enforce state and city laws on and off campus grounds 24 hours a day 7 days a week. The CUNY Public Safety Department serves and protects more than 516,000 students, 35,000 faculty members and other employees, along with 300-plus buildings on almost 27 million square feet of space, throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York. It was the first university law enforcement agency ever to respond to an act of war.


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 are headed by Directors. These Directors eventually were designated as Chiefs. The first officers to be brought on were sergeants who were retired police officers 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 and were then commissioned by the state. 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. Public Safety Sergeants hold Peace Officer status throughout the state of New York.


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.[1]
  • 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 and 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. [2]

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, CUNY Public Safety maintains liaison officers at the New York City Office of Emergency Management, 24 hours a day. 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, New York City Health and Hospital Police, 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,[3] New York State Department of Finance and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Police. 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.[4] All instructors are New York State certified.

Future of operations and units[edit]

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. [5]


The CUNY Public Safety Academy is located next to York College in Jamaica, Queens. New trainees are required to attend a 13-week Campus Public Safety Officers Course. The "Campus Public Safety Officers Course" includes training in:

  • Penal and Criminal Procedure Law
  • Defensive Tactics
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drug and Alcohol Recognition and Enforcement
  • Emergency Vehicle Operation
  • Chemical Agents
  • Physical Training
  • Arrest Techniques and Process
  • Report Writing
  • Interviewing and Interrogating
  • Investigation Techniques
  • Patrol Tactics
  • Traffic and Felony Vehicle Stops
  • Critical Incident Management
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Emotionally Disturbed Persons
  • Computer Operations
  • Radio Communications

Equipment and Vehicles[edit]

CUNY officers are equipped with an ASP baton, pepper spray, handcuffs, flashlight, bullet resistant vest, and a walkie talkie that is directly linked to a central dispatcher and to other officers. Although CUNY officers are trained to use physical force, only officers at certain post assignments carry a firearm due to current CUNY policy. Historically, the university had anti-law enforcement sentiment. All officers are unarmed. Some officers assigned to the SAFE team, special assignments, and officers authorized by their college president. The department uses numerous vehicles including vans, bikes, scooters, and patrol cars.

Power and authority[edit]

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 misdemeanors and violations committed in their presence as well as for felonies committed in their presence or not (provided they have the requisite probable cause). They may also enforce other statutes such as local bylaws. These powers are limited to the "geographic area" in which the peace officer is employed (such as a city, town). 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 if the offense is committed in their presence and the arrest is made during or immediately following such act.[6]

Such power and authority contrasts with those granted to police officers, such as the NYPD. Unlike Peace Officers, Police Officers can serve warrants, investigate order of protection violations, and, with probable cause, arrest any person at any time and at any public place in New York, whether the offense is committed in their presence or not. They are also allowed to pursue offenders outside the state and, provided the laws of that state permit, arrest him there.[7]

A very small amount of Campus Peace Officers are authorized to carry a firearm with the approval of their college president and accords to New York City Police Department pistol License section. Colleges such as Lehman College, Bronx Community College and Brooklyn College have a few armed supervisors, in uniform and plainclothes. Several other campuses have at least one firearm on campus on a regular basis. Still, most of the Campus Peace Officers are unarmed.

Line of Duty Deaths[edit]

Officer Date of Death Details
Deputy Chief John P. McKee
Sunday, September 14, 2015
9/11 Related Illness

Relationship with the New York City Police Department[edit]

The CUNY Public Safety Department at each college regularly correspond with nearby precincts about activity in the area, and they convey such information to the student body to keep them alert.[8]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]