A string of tragedies at schools across the country in recent years has many community colleges taking a serious look at their security policies. At the forefront is the question of whether guards and officers on community college campuses should be allowed to carry firearms. While some college administrators make good argument for the allowance of weapons, others have equally compelling arguments against the practice. These community colleges offer a small sample of the schools that are grappling with the issue of guns on their campuses.
Holyoke Community College Heeding Massachusetts Report
Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts is taking an in-depth look at the possibility of arming campus guards after a report on campus violence prevention was released for Massachusetts schools. The report, which was published by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, recommends that “sworn campus police officers should be armed and trained in the use of personal or specialized firearms.” The report was compiled in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007 and another incident at Northern Illinois University in 2008.
According to mLive, the Holyoke Community College Campus Safety Committee is now considering arming the school’s nine full-time police officers. Currently, the employees, who are all graduates of either the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Academy or the Massachusetts State Police Training Academy, are not allowed to carry guns on campus. However, after a lockdown situation on the college campus in February, the question of arming guards to handle active shooter situations was once again raised.
The Holyoke Community College Campus Safety Committee was formed by the chairwoman of the Board of Trustees for the college, Helen Caulton-Harris. Caulton-Harris created the ad hoc committee to review the proposal involving arming guards. Once the review is completed, the committee is slated to make an official recommendation to the board. If the college decides to arm their security staff, they will join at least seven other colleges and universities across the state that have taken similar action.
Lockdown Leads Manchester Community College to Consider Armed Guards
Another campus lockdown at Manchester Community College in Connecticut has prompted similar talks at that school. According to My Record Journal, the president of Manchester, Gina Glickman, is leading the push to arm the campus police at the school. Long before the recent lockdown, Glickman has worked with police chiefs from other schools across Connecticut to create stronger police forces with better preparation for emergency and active shooter situations.
“Why do you have a sworn police department if you’re not going to treat them as a sworn police department?” Glickman was reported asking at My Record Journal. “I mean, what’s the advantage of a police department that’s not fully able to discharge their duty?”
In the recent lockdown at Manchester Community College, some students were stuck in classrooms and offices for as long as six hours while police searched buildings for a potential shooter. The lockdown occurred after a student reported seeing a man on the campus with a handgun in the pocket of his pants. No weapons were found during the search, and the only injury occurred to a police officer when his gun discharged and shot him in the foot.
Rhode Island Changes Statewide Ban on Armed Guards
Community colleges and four-year schools in Rhode Island had no choice but to leave security guards unarmed under state law – the only law of its kind in the United States. Recently, that law was overturned by the State Board of Education, allowing police officers on college campuses to carry firearms for the first time. Individual schools will now be allowed to determine whether they want their campus police to be armed, according to a report at the Providence Journal.
Carroll Community College to Arm Campus Guards
The Carroll County Times reports that Carroll Community College in Maryland will also be arming their campus police force in the near future. According to the report, the Carroll Community College Board of Trustees voted to approve arming Special Police Officers on the college campus. The vote came after discussions between school officials, the sheriff’s office and the Maryland State Police.
“It is our belief that having armed Special Police Officers will better protect the college community and our officers during critical situations on campus,” Alan Schuman, Executive Vice President of Administration, was reported saying at the Carroll County Times.
Currently, the school boasts six full-time campus police officers that will now be able to carry firearms at all times while working on campus. Most of these employees are retired police officers, with multiple years of experience in law enforcement. They have also received training with the local sheriff’s office.
In the past, these officers would be armed for a short period of time, during incidents where an imminent threat was perceived. Under the new program, officers will be allowed to carry firearms full-time while working on campus. The new program should be instituted within a matter of months, and will require ongoing training of the officers through the sheriff’s office.
Campus security officers will have jurisdiction over burglaries and other minor crimes involving property. They will also be responsible for handling disorderly conduct complaints and alcohol violations. Violent crimes and drug violations will continue to be handled by the sheriff’s office.
As concerns continue over school safety, more community colleges are taking a closer look at how to keep their students safe on campus. Many schools are now turning to armed security guards as an effective way to handle active, dangerous situations that have been consistently on the rise in recent years.