Q: Our District is considering several options to protect our campuses, one of which is commissioning our own police force. Is this possible, and what are the requirements if we decide to pursue that option?
A: Yes. The Texas Education Code allows school districts to create their own police force in accordance with Section 37.081, and following the rules outlined by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (“TCOLE”).
Texas Education Code Section 37.081 authorizes a board of trustees to employ security personnel and commission peace officers. The board is responsible for determining the peace officer’s jurisdiction, which may include all of the territory inside the boundaries of the school district and all property outside the boundaries of the district that is owned, leased, or rented by the district. School district peace officers have all powers, privileges, and immunities of traditional peace officers. They have the authority to perform law enforcement duties for the school district and are charged with protecting the safety and welfare of any person in the officer’s jurisdiction and the property of the school district.
To start the process, the board would take formal action to commission a police force by approving a Resolution confirming the board’s intent. Within the Resolution, the board can delegate to the Superintendent the authority to take steps necessary to obtain approval from TCOLE and actually commission peace officers for the district. To obtain an application to create a new law enforcement agency, districts must call TCOLE directly and request a copy of the application be sent to them.
Regarding specifics, the school district police force must have a chief of police that is responsible for reporting to the superintendent and for the oversight, management and supervision of all school district police officers. School districts that create a police force must also enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) with any law enforcement agency that has overlapping jurisdiction (e.g., the City Police Department and/or County Sheriff’s Department) outlining reasonable communication and coordination efforts between the agencies.
Once commissioned, a school district peace officer must complete the following actions:
· Take and file the oath required of peace officers (you can find the oath on the Secretary of State’s website);
Execute and file a bond in the sum of $1,000, payable to the board of trustees, with two or more sureties (e.g., a bank and a title company), conditioned that the peace officer will fairly, impartially, and faithfully perform all the duties that may be required of the peace officer by law.
Meet all minimum standards for peace officers established by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.
In sum, commissioning a police force requires a school district to adopt a Resolution, complete an application process, create local policies and law enforcement procedures, and enter into agreements with other agencies and officers concerning overlapping jurisdiction. Thus, while easily achievable, the process can be arduous and unfamiliar. As such, we recommend working with your school’s attorney to prepare all necessary documents and oversight.