Connecticut community colleges may arm campus officers

Faculty members embrace as they are allowed to return to Umpqua Community College Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education moved closer Thursday toward allowing armed security on all state community college campuses, with proponents acknowledging “the world is a different place.” (AP)

The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education has responded to a nationwide epidemic of mass shootings, some taking place at community colleges, by voting to allow armed security officers on state community college campuses.

Police at UConn and security at Connecticut’s four regional universities are already able to carry guns, but all twelve community colleges leading up to this decision, excluding Naugatuck Valley Community College and Gateway Community College, are weaponless campuses.

Last week, a resolution passed by the board gave Connecticut community colleges the opportunity to arm or forbid arming their security. This is not the final step in the process, though. Before security can be armed, the Connecticut General Assembly must first pass a bill calling for the creation of groups of officers who are specifically trained to carry weapons, known as “special police forces.”

Police at UConn and security at Connecticut’s four regional universities are already able to carry guns, but all twelve community colleges leading up to this decision, excluding Naugatuck Valley Community College and Gateway Community College, are weaponless campuses.  

“UConn has its own accredited police department, and any decisions by the Board of Regents involving security for their campuses is outside of our purview,” UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said of the decision.

Manchester Community College (MCC) has long been a proponent of arming their security officers, and was part of a strong push for such a resolution. Speaking for the office of the president, Michael Jordan-Reilly, a Manchester Community College (MCC) spokesperson, supported the decision.

“MCC is pleased with the Board of Regents decision and we look forward to the next steps as the proposal goes to the legislature,” Jordan-Reilly told the Daily Campus. “We take the safety of everyone on campus very seriously and are supportive of what our campus police need to do their jobs. The college currently does everything in its power to keep faculty, staff, students and visitors aware of their surroundings and to protect the security of the campus.”

Other schools have stated they will hold campus wide discussions with the student body before making any decisions.

Backing the arming of campus security has increased since shootings such as the one at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon. This instance was cited by MCC professor Paul Marks in an op-ed for the Hartford Courant arguing for the arming of security officers.

“It's [not permitting campus officers to carry weapons] an outdated, retrograde policy that denies needed protection to more than 7,000 students, faculty and staff,” the column read. “In the event of an active shooter, our campus police could issue a text message alert, sound an alarm by public address, call 911 and more or less wait for help. ‘Rapid armed intervention’ — the standard police tactic to neutralize active shooters — would not be an option. Until armed Manchester municipal officers showed up from four miles away, we'd be pretty much on our own.”

An article in Campus Safety Magazine did not take a side on whether or not campus officers should be armed, though it did caution schools that do on what to look out for.

“Let’s face it: a Virginia Tech-style incident is statistically a rare occurrence, and a side arm will most likely not prevent or stop an active shooter incident from occurring,” the article read. “Other violent incidents, such as domestic disputes, calls with knives involved, and physical arguments are on the rise. The possession of a lethal weapon by a campus public safety officer might be the only way to mitigate a large portion of those incidents where no other option is available.”

The magazine said some important factors to consider are past precedents, training and other standards and campus dynamics.

“Is your institution an open campus with few entrance restrictions by means of physical barriers and/or searches (not just policy restrictions - dry campuses will no doubt have alcohol on them)? Do you host a lot of public events on your campus that draw large crowds from the area? Is your campus in a high-crime vicinity or an urban area with lots of public transportation access points? Are you primarily a resident or commuter campus or perhaps a good mix?” are additional considerations.

Armed security is common on college campuses throughout the country. The U.S. Department of Justice found that 75 percent of all college campuses were armed.


Sten Spinella is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.