Reply to: John J. Aldridge, III Law Enforcement Liaison Section
(919) 716-6725 Fax: (919) 716-6760
February 7, 2001
VIA FIRST CLASS MAIL
Mr. G. Dewey Hudson District Attorney, 4th Judicial District
P.O. 719 Kenansville, NC 28349-0719
Re: Advisory Opinion: Territorial Jurisdiction of Company Police Agencies;
N.C.G.S. § 74E-6.
We are in receipt of your February 7, 2001 letter requesting an Advisory Opinion on the territorial jurisdiction of company police agencies in North Carolina. We are happy to respond.
In your letter you describe a fact scenario wherein company police officers, commissioned through Chapter 74E of the North Carolina General Statutes, are serving as law enforcement officers for the town of Newton Grove. Apparently, after the regular police officers with the Newton Grove Police Department resigned, the Town entered into a contract with a company police agency, the North Carolina Special Police (NCSP) to provide law enforcement services to the town. NCSP is a company police agency headed by Mr. Jeremy Thompson and is certified as such pursuant to Chapter 74E of the North Carolina General Statutes.
Shortly after entering in this contract, the Town expressed an intention to pursue a direct employer-employee relationship with several of the officers from NCSP and have such officers certified as municipal police officers through the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission. However, these officers have not, to date, been employed by the town of Newton Grove. These company police officers have nonetheless been patrolling the streets and highways within the incorporated area of Newton Grove and have issued a number of citations for traffic and criminal offenses.
Page 2 Ltr, Mr. Hudson February 7, 2001
Law enforcement officers may take enforcement actions only when they are within both their territorial and subject matter jurisdictions. North Carolina General Statute 74E6(c) provides that:
Company Police Officers, while in the performance of the duties of their employment, have the same powers as municipal and county police officers to make arrests for both felonies and misdemeanors and to charge for infractions on any of the following:
- Real property owned by or in the possession and control of their employer.
- Real property owned by or in the possession and control of a person who has contracted with the employer to provide on-site company police security personnel services for the property.
- Any other real property while in continuous and immediate pursuit of a person for an offense committed upon property described in subdivisions (1) or (2) of this subsection.
(emphasis added). N.C.G.S. § 74E-6(c).
It is clear therefore that company police officers are limited to exercising law enforcement authority only on the real property of their employer. Unless the company police officers are in continuous and immediate pursuit of a person for an offense committed upon this real property, the officers lack the territorial jurisdiction to take law enforcement actions on the streets and highways in and around this real property. Assuming the contract between NCSP and the Town is lawful, the NCSP officers would lack law enforcement authority on the streets and private businesses in the Town.
Your letter references an attempt by the Town to pursue a direct employer-employee relationship with some of the officers of NCSP and seek independent certifications for the officers. However, it would appear that the officers are not acting as employees for the town of Newton Grove, and are continuing to serve under the authority of a contract between the Town and NCSP. North Carolina General Statute 160A-281 authorizes a city to “appoint a chief of police and to employ other police officers. . .” This office has interpreted this language to contemplate a direct employer-employee relationship between the city and the officers rather than a contractual arrangement with a company police officer agency and the city. See: 50 NCAG 94 (1981). Consequently, the law enforcement actions of these company police officers, on the streets Page 3 Ltr, Mr. Hudson February 7, 2001
and private businesses in and around the town of Newton Grove, cannot be justified as the company police officers are not employees of the city.
Therefore, it is our opinion that any enforcement actions taken by company police officers for NCSP, while acting pursuant to a contract between their agency and the town of Newton Grove, on the streets and private businesses of Newton Grove are unlawful.
We hope you find this information responsive to your inquiry. This is an advisory opinion. It has not been reviewed and approved in accordance with the procedures for issuing a Formal Attorney General’s Opinion.
Very truly yours,
James J. Coman Senior Deputy Attorney General Law Enforcement and Prosecutions
John J. Aldridge, III Assistant Attorney General Law Enforcement Liaison Section