Court blocks college officers' power to make arrests

A prestigious North Carolina private college cannot have police officers with the power to arrest suspects and enforce state law because the school is a religious institution, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

A three-judge panel agreed that the state Attorney General’s Office shouldn’t have commissioned Davidson College officers as law enforcement with powers similar to city police or county sheriffs.

Allowing the school’s security officers to carry out laws on behalf of the state violates the constitutional ban on laws establishing religion by creating “an excessive government entanglement with religion,” Judge Jim Wynn wrote in the unanimous opinion.

Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office, which represents the state in the case, is reviewing the decision, a spokeswoman said.

The unanimous ruling means there’s no automatic appeal to the state Supreme Court.The case arose when a Davidson officer stopped a motorist in 2006 on a street adjacent to the campus, 20 miles north of Charlotte. The driver, Julie Anne Yencer — who was not a Davidson student — pleaded guilty to driving while impaired but appealed.