Out from the Curtains of Secrecy: Private University Police and State Open Records Laws


The role of police officers on college campuses has grown in the past 40 years from that of “glorified custodians” to full-fledged police officers, often with powers to search, detain, arrest, and even to use deadly force. Yet most state open records laws have not kept up, failing to require disclosure of records about crimes reported to or arrests made by sworn police officers at private universities. This article provides a full national picture by identifying the statutes and analyzing the cases to address whether state open records laws apply to private university police. It then suggests that the “functional equivalency test” provides courts a method to require transparency at these police departments.