More college campus cops are carrying guns

Higher Education
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted 1/20/15, 04:28 pm

Amid increased worries about school shootings and subsequent discussions on gun control, public universities are turning more and more toward arming campus police officers, according to a new Justice Department report. 

Among the 900 campuses surveyed, about two-thirds of public and private campuses had armed officers during the 2011-2012 school year, a 68 to 75 percent increase from the last survey conducted in 2004-2005. 

Some of the increase is due to parents and others wanting assurances that schools are protected by well-trained and equipped officers, especially after high-profile cases such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting and Penn State child sex abuse case. 

“Parents are asking up front … do you have weapons, can you respond to an active shooter if there was a situation on your campus?” said Florida State University Police Chief David Perry, who serves as president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

According to the report, officers at public universities are twice as likely to carry guns as those at private schools, and about 92 percent of public campuses used sworn police officers with full arrest powers. Most also were authorized to carry guns, pepper spray, and batons, and to patrol beyond campus grounds. About 40 percent were authorized to carry stun guns. Schools are not required to report use of weapons to the federal government.

By contrast, only about 38 percent of private campuses used sworn officers during the same period, but campus public safety expert Seven Healy said interest in full-service agencies that do not rely on outside police enforcement appears to be growing. 

“Compared to 10 years ago, we’ve made drastic improvements to become more professional, more accountable, and more responsive to the expectation of our campus community,” Perry said.

The officers aren’t expected simply to deal with school shootings. While such incidents are high impact, they are low-probability, and Healy said schools need to consider all vulnerabilities so their officers can respond to “the full range of threats.” 

Law enforcement agencies at four-year schools with at least 2,500 students handled an average of five sexual assault or other violent crime cases in 2011, a 27 percent decrease from 2004, according to the report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rachel Lynn Aldrich

Rachel is a World Journalism Institute graduate. Follow Rachel on Twitter @Rachel_Lynn_A.

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