UPDATE (12/21): This article has been updated to reflect additional comments from Rutgers Police Chief Kenneth Cop.
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—According to confidential sources, a dispute between Rutgers’ police department and the NBPD’s civilian director Anthony Caputo has led to a strange situation: limited police powers for the Rutgers officers outside of the school’s campus.
Unless a “life safety issue” comes into play, Rutgers police have effectively been told to stand down across the city, and they have done so, according to one source.
Rutgers’ police chief said that the “mutual aid” agreement with New Brunswick police is under review, but declined to say what areas New Brunswick is currently granting Rutgers police “Title 39” authority, better known as the power to give out traffic tickets.
“Yes there’s been some changes, and I’m not going to get into the specifics of those exact areas… That’s at the authority of New Brunswick,” said RUPD Chief Kenneth Cop.
Cop insisted that the recent changes were limited just to traffic and parking, and that the changes were made several weeks ago.
The Rutgers Police Department (RUPD) operates in several towns including Newark, Piscataway, Camden, and of course New Brunswick.
Technically the department has statewide jurisdiction, but only one of the towns they patrol in has attempted to regulate which areas the Rutgers cops are empowered to use their authority: New Brunswick.
For years, a city map colored into three sections–red, yellow, and green areas–depicted which department holds primary responsibility, and where responsibility was shared.
But that map may change as the two departments work out a new agreement.
“We’re in the process of working on a new mutual aid agreement,” said Cop. “But it’s pretty much in line with what we’ve had in the past.”
“Regularly and periodically we review the areas where New Brunswick gives us the authority to issue traffic and parking tickets,” Cop told New Brunswick Today.
Last night, 11 RUPD police cruisers were out on patrol, according to police transmissions. But, the officers driving them were largely stripped of their powers to enforce laws such as drunk driving and other motor vehicle violations.
“You would think a city would take advantage of that,” said one source, adding that RUPD makes a major contribution to public safety in several neighborhoods near campus.
Sources say that RUPD makes more “driving under the influence” (DUI) arrests than NBPD on average, many of them on the busy Easton Avenue corridor.
Our source said the Rutgers department was also refraining from their traditional quality of life enforcement including public intoxication, public urination, and breaking up house parties.
The source said that, just a few weeks ago, New Brunswick’s Police Director Anthony Caputo spontaneously visited the RUPD headquarters with a message for RUPD: “Here’s your new map.”
The map showed the area where Rutgers police belong: on the campus exclusively.
Since then, the university’s police have not been doing any proactive enforcement in the sizable off-campus neighborhoods dominated by students. The New Brunswick police have also ceased calling for help from the RUPD, according to one source.
That claim appears to be backed up by police radio transmissions that reveal the New Brunswick police taking a larger role on the Easton Avenue corridor.
One source said that many of New Brunswick’s rank-and-file officers were not made aware of the change in territory.
According to the source, the two departments are at a “standstill,” with Rutgers officers frustrated over the power play and university officials in a position to cut off the NBPD from valuable overtime opportunities.
Traditionally, the NBPD has been hired by Rutgers to handle crowd control at events such as football games, providing NBPD officers with a chunk of “extra-duty” pay that stands to become even larger when Rutgers joins the Big 10 athletic conference next year.
According to a September article in the Daily Targum, a Rutgers official said “the two departments were still sorting out jurisdiction issues.”
Director Caputo has not yet responded to an email sent earlier today requesting comment.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.