Community colleges consider arming campus officers

Paper: Kansas City Star, The (MO)
Title: Community colleges consider arming campus officers
Author: MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM, The Kansas City Star
Date: November 25, 2007
Section: NEWS
Page: B1

When Johnson County Community College public safety officers answer a call, they carry a radio and handcuffs.

Officers at Metropolitan Community College campuses carry just a radio.

But that could change, as both schools are reviewing whether campus officers should be armed.

“In a lot of ways, they act like a police force, but they’re not equipped like a police force,” said Wayne Brown, JCCC’s executive vice president for administration.

The MCC review comes in response to Gov. Matt Blunt’s Missouri Campus Security Task Force report released in August.

The school is reviewing all of the report’s recommendations, including arming campus security, said Tom Vansaghi, associate vice chancellor of college and community relations. A recommendation could be ready by spring, he said.

Associate director of public safety Domenick Brouillette said faculty, staff and students are involved in the review.

He reviews incident reports from all of MCC’s campuses and said the crime rate has not raised alarms.

“Our officers go through a 40-hour training,” Brouillette said. “They learn verbal judo and how to talk their way out of an incident.”

The JCCC trustees first discussed the need for armed campus officers after the April shootings at Virginia Tech. But the school began reviewing the subject in earnest in September, when Brown took on responsibilities for the public safety department and its 25 officers and 10 dispatchers.

The school turns to the Overland Park Police Department for help when needed, public safety manager Larry Dixon said.

JCCC’s public safety officers monitor parking lots and write campus traffic tickets, Dixon said. But they also are called to disturbances involving disputes over parking spaces and arguments between students or between students and teachers.

Since classes started in August, officers have investigated 11 criminal events, according to the school’s online crime log. Those include four cases of battery, one against a law enforcement officer.

It’s their work responding to alarms at the school that worries Brown.

“I worked in law enforcement in the military for 14 years and would never show up unarmed for an alarm,” Brown said.

Kansas City Kansas Community College officers are armed, said spokesman Alan Hoskins.

Arming the JCCC officers would carry with it both training and equipment costs, as well as decisions about what weapons the officers would carry.

That could include collapsible batons, pepper spray, stun guns, handguns or some combination, Dixon said. Regardless of what they carry, officers would be well trained, he said.

Freshman Joe Daniels, 18, of Paola, Kan., could endorse a plan that stops short of lethal force.

“A Taser wouldn’t harm someone as much as a real gun,” he said.

Classmate AJ Eisma, 18, of Overland Park, said he’d support equipping officers with a nightstick and handgun, as long as officers were well trained.

But freshman Juan Davalos, 21, had doubts about arming campus officers.

“I wouldn’t feel safe being around people who have guns,” he said.

The decision is months away, and JCCC trustee Jon Stewart said he’s waiting to hear administrators’ recommendations before making up his mind.

He wonders about the costs to taxpayers of establishing the equivalent of a police department on campus.

“You have to evaluate what’s the right thing to do for the campus,” Stewart said.

“Would you ever want to be in the position, if something happened on campus, of thinking, ‘What if we would have done this?’ “

Author: MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM, The Kansas City Star
Section: NEWS
Page: B1

Copyright (c) 2007 The Kansas City Star