CUNY Public Safety Department

City University of New York Public Safety Department

The City University of New York Public Safety Department (CUNY Public Safety) is a law enforcement agency in New York City whose duties are to protect all campuses owned by the City University of New York (CUNY) and to enforce state and city laws on campus grounds. The CUNY Public Safety Department is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in New York City with 600 Officers, Sergeants, Lieutenants, Corporals, Specialists, Deputy Chiefs, Directors, and Chiefs. The CUNY Public Safety Department serves and protects more than 460,000 students throughout the five boroughs of the City of New York.


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 force at each of the 19 CUNY campuses were headed by directors. These directors eventually were designated as chiefs. The only campus not to have active Public Safety personnel is John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This was due to the campus reserving its police service for students as a training tool. The first officers to be brought on were sergeants who were primarily retired police and correctional officers from around New York City. The first officers laid the ground work 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. All of these ranks are based on the NYPD's ranking system; however, the ranks of corporal and specialist do not exist in the NYPD. The rank of specialist is equivalent to that of an NYPD detective but answers only to the chief of the campus that he or she works at. There are three types of Specialist: Crime Prevention and Investigations, Electronics Service, and Fire Safety. Each specialist works in the area of his or her expertise. In recent years the rank of Deputy Chief and Director has been added to the rank structure.


There are eight ranks in the CUNY Public Safety Department:

  • Chief
  • Director
  • Deputy Chief
  • Lieutenant
  • Specialist
  • Sergeant
  • Corporal
  • Officer


  • 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.
  • 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 NYPD was called in. These two incidents prompted the University to speed its development of an in house police 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 effected 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 Universities Special Response Team (formally called the SAFE Team) evacuated neighboring apartment complexes such as Independence Plaza and assisted in area access control.


Currently, CUNY Public Safety has the following units:

  • Patrol Unit - Officers patrol on foot, on bicycles, and in marked police cars.
  • Bicycle Unit - Part of the Patrol Unit.
  • EMT (Emergency Medical Technicians) - Many members of CUNY Public Safety are certified Emergency Medical Technicians. In addition to their law enforcement duties, these officers function as medical emergency specialist. The EMTs are equipped with an array of medical emergency equipment.
  • Canine Unit - Currently, Canine units are only at three campuses.
  • Special Assistance For Events(S.A.F.E) Unit - The CUNY S.A.F.E. unit is the University's Emergency Response Team. It was activated on September 11 2001 and assisted with the emergency.

Future Of The Units

In the near future, there are plans to expand the specialized units. These plans will include forming a marine unit that will be stationed out of Kingsborough Community College, which is an ocean front campus. The restructuring of the S.A.F.E. Team to be more reflective of other emergency response teams (e.g.: NYPD ESU, PAPD ESU) throughout the Greater New York City area is also under consideration.


The departments first Public Safety Academy was housed at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. CUNY now trains it's officers at the new Public Safety Academy which is located at York College in Jamaica, Queens. The CUNY training course provides the state required hours of training needed to certify all officers as peace officers and other training relevant to university policing. This includes, but is not limited to; law, defensive tactics, community interaction, and medical emergency response. CUNY peace officers receive additional annual training on law enforcement topics and bi-annual emergency medical training. CUNY also trains NYC Health and Hospital Police Officers and Brooklyn Public Library Peace Officers. All agencies receive basic training, but the training courses also vary from agency to agency. The CUNY Public Safety Academy may begin to train other law enforcement officers, such as New York City Sheriffs.


All CUNY officers are armed with batons, pepper spray, and handcuffs. Currently, supervisors (sergeants and above) at Lehman College and members of the S.A.F.E. unit, which is the emergency response team, carry firearms. The president of each college determines whether or not officers on their campus will carry firearms.

Power and Authority

CUNY Public Safety officers are designated as New York State Peace Officers in accordance with Section 2.10, subsection 79 of the New York State Criminal Procedure Law. As New York State Peace Officers, these officers are fully sworn and commissioned law enforcement officers by the State of New York to enforce the laws of New York State in their jurisdiction, which lies in the five boroughs of New York City. However, they have powers of arrest anywhere in New York State and may use force to do so as per the Penal Law. CUNY officers perform the same functions as most other law enforcement departments in the state. CUNY officers may act on warrants that come to their attention, but the serving of warrants in the five boroughs is the jurisdiction of the NYPD. Other powers include warrantless arrests, the use of deadly physical force, and issuing tickets and court summonses. There is a memorandum of understanding that prohibits the NYPD from performing enforcement on any CUNY campus without the consent and assistance of CUNY Public Safety. CUNY Peace Officers may take police action anywhere in the five boroughs and may take action on misdemeanor and felony crimes in progress throughout the state.

Like all law enforcement departments throughout New York City, CUNY processes their prisoners at local NYPD precincts. CUNY then turns over their prisoners to the New York City Department of Corrections at the central booking station of each borough. CUNY Peace Officers are recognized by the Fraternal Order of Police. The department maintains and promotes respect for the individual rights and dignity of all persons and continually attempts to instill public confidence by maintaining a high degree of professionalism, dedication and expertise in the delivery of the service it provides.

Relationship with the NYPD

The working relationship between the NYPD and the CUNY Public Safety Department is very good. Both departments have partnered up to combat crime in neighborhoods near campuses throughout the city.

See also


External links

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