STATE COLLEGE – The Pennsylvania State Police dispatched 70 employees to the Penn State University Park campus in October to provide extra security at an event attended by one of the founders of the Proud Boys, a violent extremist group.
But unlike the local police departments that assisted Penn State Police at the event, the state police were not compensated for their services.
On October 24, a Penn State student group invited two far-right activists to a meeting “Comedy” event on campus. Despite repeated public statements by Penn State leaders stating the speakers’ views “disgusting,” Officials rejected public calls for the event to be canceled, citing constitutional rights to free speech. The student group paid the activists $7,500 in tuition to perform.
That evening, protesters gathered outside the campus building where the event was scheduled, and police did not immediately intervene when individuals in the crowd sprayed protesters with a chemical irritant, according to videos shared online.
Officers from four local police departments and the state police, some on horseback, were on hand to control the crowd. Penn State canceled the event shortly before it was scheduled to begin due to “Threat of Escalating Violence”
Spotlight PA requested information from police departments working that evening regarding reimbursement payments under Pennsylvania’s right-to-know law. State police told Spotlight PA in response to a request for records “No refund was made.”
Other agencies providing security at the Proud Boys event included Bellefonte, Patton Township, Spring Township and State College Police Departments. Open record requests showed that Penn State had reimbursed the four agencies a total of $31,680.
When asked if Penn State State Police reimbursed for the agency’s services on the night of the Proud Boys event, Senior Director of University Public Relations Lisa Powers responded in an email “The university does not share this information.”
Penn State’s special status as “state university” it largely exempts from Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law.
The university routinely reimburses overtime to police departments whose employees keep the university safe at events such as the Penn State Home Football Games.
This is the only regular partnership the law enforcement agency has with a Commonwealth college or university, Myles Snyder, the agency’s spokesman, told Spotlight PA in a September email. He added that each municipality can request security services from the state police for major events.
Spotlight PA filed an open records request in August 2022, asking state police how much the university reimbursed the agency for security details during the 2021 home games. State police said a total of 12,317.79 hours worked by their officers cost the university more than $1.3 million.
Spotlight PA filed another public records request for a breakdown of those two numbers by date. State police denied the request, arguing that while those records exist, they are itemized by period of payment — not date. However, the right-to-know law does not require requesters to know how the records are retained so long as the request was specific and limited in scope.
Spotlight PA appealed the rejection of these public records on November 7th. The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records sided with the news organization in early January, ordering state police to release the numbers by February 3.