Guns on RI Campuses. Who is Armed?
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
“Rhode Island College has no plans to arm its campus police at this time,” said Laura Hart, Director of College Communications and Marketing at Rhode Island College.
“The decision to arm or not to arm campus police involves factors unique to each institution of higher education.”
Kristen Cyr, Public Relations Officer in the Marketing and Communications Department at the Community College of Rhode Island, said “CCRI has no plans to arm its Campus Police.”
URI will issue firearms to its police force next year. All the officers are already graduates of the state police academy. However, before guns are issued in 2015, each member will undergo extra psychological testing and background checks.
State Police support
“I’ve always supported arming campus police. As long as they are properly trained from a certified trained body,” said Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell of the Rhode Island State Police.
“Each college campus president has made their own decision. I understand a college or university’s thought process is much different than law enforcement. All the attention from shootings on campuses around the country has created this dialogue. An [unarmed] policeman is at much greater risk if somebody is creating an act of carnage. All these shootings are done in a matter of minutes. [Armed officers] might be able to stop that threat before the body count goes up.”
Off campus perspective
East Providence Police Lieutenant Armen Garo is a senior shift commander in the city’s patrol division with 29 years on the job. He said many campus police officers are retired police officers or former police officers from other jurisdictions.
“I know many of them and they definitely feel that they should be armed. It's clear in our society that there is a need for security on campus to be able to protect everyone that lives and works there. Nothing should be left to chance,” Garo said.
“The American college campuses are very special places. They are the training centers for our leaders of tomorrow. They are the laboratories where essential inventive experiments are being conducted designed to improve our quality of life. They are too special to leave unprotected without doing everything possible to maintain tranquility there.”
“Campus security police officers usually are burdened with balancing the needs of students, the faculty, the campus administration and the families of the students. That isn't an easy job. Especially when so much of the student body has just recently come into adulthood. I'm sure additional training with a higher degree of emphasis on balancing those needs would be advantageous.”
Garo said URI made the right decision, one that he believes other schools are likely to follow.
“I think Rhode Island College and CCRI eventually will very likely head in the same direction. It's a proactive move that benefits the student body, the parents, the faculty, the administration, and the rest of the citizens of the state.”
Mayoral candidates weigh in
"I grew up in a neighborhood where I learned first-hand that nothing else matters unless people feel safe. As Mayor, my priority will always be to maximize the safety of our entire community,” said Providence Mayoral candidate Jorge Elorza.
“Any decision made about arming campus police needs to be made collaboratively and considered alongside a comprehensive vision for public safety that includes building trust between the police and the community, addressing the very conditions that give rise to crime in the first place, and most importantly, placing the voices of our students and our neighbors at the forefront of the decision-making process."
Providence Mayoral Candidate Brett Smiley said the primary responsibility of campus police officers is to ensure the safety of all students, staff and faculty.
“In some cases, arming these officers allows them to do their job more effectively. Of course, any decision to arm a campus police force must also be accompanied by extensive training in weapons use and clear use-of-force policies,” Smiley said.
“Each campus has unique public safety challenges, and the schools themselves have the best grasp on what needs to be done to protect their students. Decisions about arming campus police forces should be left to the school administrations on a case-by-case basis rather than dictated by a statewide policy."
Dan Harrop, MD, the lone GOP Candidate for Mayor of Providence, reflected on his faculty time at Brown University.
“A campus officer was killed many years ago after being assaulted by a non-student intruder, the officers are armed, but they also go through training at the police academy – so essentially have the same training as the regular Providence police. Private colleges should have the right to do as they want, either way,” he said.
“As for state schools – CCRI, URI, RIC – yes, it would seem, in this day and age, that the campus police, having taken the same training as city/town police get, should be armed.”
Candidate Lorne Adrain said each campus in Providence has a unique set of circumstances that must be considered instead of a one-size-fits-all policy.
“For example, URI, Rhode Island College and CCRI’s downtown campus all have different proximity to local police resources. In that context, I believe it is appropriate for college and university leadership, and city and state officials to work together to make the best decision for each campus," Adrain said.
Related Slideshow: The Influence of Gun Money in New England States
New Data from The Sunlight Foundation shows state-by-state breakdowns for donations to groups on both sides of the gun debate. The money went toward candidates, political parties, and political action committees (PACs), but doesn't include donations to independent or so-called “super PACs”.
See how much money went to candidates in each of the New England States in the slides below.
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