WEST LIBERTY WV July 20 2017 — In a partnership that may be the only one of its kind in the nation, protection provided by West Liberty University police now extends off campus to include the entire town of West Liberty.
Town and university officials signed a mutual assistance agreement last week. Under that agreement, university police now have primary jurisdiction on all calls within the town, according to WLU Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Joseph Montemurro.
WLU police will be dispatched to all 911 calls within West Liberty, and will be permitted under law to make arrests and write tickets.
A trial arrangement for police protection in West Liberty began in April, and has been extended for a year through July 10, 2018.
The partnership is believed to be the only one of its kind in the nation, as in most instances municipalities are the principal provider of police protection in college communities — assisting campus police officers when a call takes place on school property, Montemurro said.
The WLU Police Department has six full-time officers, while the town of West Liberty employs just one officer who is still obtaining his certification.
The town encompasses just 0.68 square miles, and has a population of 1,500. The university has about 3,000 students enrolled, and many of them live off campus within the town.
The town of West Liberty won’t be paying the university for its services under the agreement, according to Montemurro.
“It’s a courtesy to the community, which essentially has no police,” he said. “This provides them extra security. We also have hundreds of students living off campus in the town, and we’re providing safety for them, as well.”
Because they are now the primary responders in West Liberty, each of the WLU police officers had to be sworn in as a West Liberty police officer during a ceremony presided over by Circuit Judge James Mazzone.
The Bel-O-Mar Regional Council in Wheeling conducted research, and could not find another instance in which a college was providing police protection to a government entity, Montemurro said. The mutual assistance agreement had to be approved by both the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office and the WLU Board of Governors.
“This is a win-win arrangement for the town of West Liberty and the campus, and I’m grateful that it was approved by all parties,” said West Liberty Mayor Mark Griffith.