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Sunday, April 14, 2024 — Houston, TX

Court rules RUPD officers have full law enforcement power

By Miles Kruppa     9/1/15 2:28pm

Rice University Police Department officers are “officers of the state” according to a May 11 ruling by the Texas State Supreme Court. As officers of the state, they have the power to enforce the laws of Texas within their jurisdictions, which includes the Rice campus and Harris County.

“[T]he private university police officer is an officer ‘of the state’ because by statute the Legislature has conferred on him the authority to enforce state law on the Rice campus, a public purpose and vested him with all a police officer’s powers, privileges and immunities,” the ruling read. 

The decision also granted RUPD the right of interlocutory appeal, which gives them the ability to appeal rulings previously made by appellate courts before any trial could occur. 

The ruling came on a false imprisonment case brought by a man who was arrested by an RUPD officer on drunk driving and evading arrest charges after a car chase near campus. He then sued the officer and Rice for false imprisonment, negligence, gross negligence, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In a written statement, RUPD Chief of Police Johnny Whitehead said RUPD supports the Supreme Court decision. He said the ruling does not change RUPD’s mission and operations, but instead affirms their rights as officers.

“Our officers face the same dangers as any other peace officer in the state and deserve the same protections and rights,” Whitehead wrote. 

RUPD came under scrutiny in 2014 for alleged misconduct during a bike theft. A dashboard camera video from the incident shows two RUPD officers using batons on the suspected thief as two others attempt to handcuff the man’s arms while he resists arrest. A grand jury neglected to indict the two officers alleged of misconduct.

The case has been remanded to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings.

More from The Rice Thresher

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To bike or not to bike? Beer Bike 2024 sees tents, possible wind

This year’s Beer Bike took place Saturday, April 6. After a seven-minute delay, the alumni races began, followed by the women’s and then the men’s. For the second year in a row, each of the races were divided into two heats. As usual, the times from both heats will be compared, along with calculated penalties, by the Rice Program Council to determine final results. Results are not available at time of publication, and the campus-wide Beer Bike coordinators did not provide a timeline for when they will be.


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