Johnson County Community College mulls its own police force – Steps to boost campus security will begin in the coming semester

Paper: Kansas City Star, The (MO)
Title: Johnson County Community College mulls its own police force – Steps to boost campus security will begin in the coming semester.
Author: MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM, The Kansas City Star
Date: December 19, 2007
Section: NEWS
Page: B9

Johnson County Community College will have an Overland Park police officer on campus next semester.

The move is an interim step as college leaders mull whether the school’s Public Safety Department should become a police department with armed officers.

Currently, the officers carry only a radio and handcuffs.

The Overland Park officer will be involved in community policing activities, said Wayne Brown, the school’s executive vice president for administration, and will respond to some calls that are currently handled by the school’s unarmed security force.

An alarm at the school’s credit union, for example.

“Somebody armed should be running to that alarm instead of an unarmed public safety officer,” Brown said.

He hopes that the officer will be on campus by the time classes resume Jan. 16. The school has about 34,000 students enrolled in credit and continuing education courses.

Bringing the Overland Park officer to the campus is just one element of ongoing efforts to tighten campus security.

The Overland Park Police Department is training the school’s security officers today, and the school hopes to add a campuswide public address system to alert people of emergencies by the time school starts next fall.

Jim Weaver, spokesman for the Overland Park Police Department, said today’s training would cover the basics of responding to a shooting on the campus, including how to watch for signs of trouble.

It likely will incorporate any plans already in place at the school such as those for moving students and staff to safety, Weaver said.

Brown said Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass suggested the training when he met with the school’s trustees last spring after the Virginia Tech shooting.

The public address system is a relatively low-tech addition to the school’s emergency notification efforts. Others, like a text messaging system, e-mail and phone notification already in place, rely on people having phones turned on or being in an office or in front of the computer.

“We don’t have a way to tell the hundreds of people walking across parking lots or in hallways that there’s a problem,” he said.

He expects to open bids on the system this spring, with hopes to have the system ready for the start of school in August.

By that time, leaders likely will have made a recommendation to trustees on the question of creating a police department on campus.

Such a move would involve more than simply arming officers, Brown said. The school would have to establish policies and procedures, train the officers and have them certified.

About 20 of the 25 officers in the department either are certified or could quickly gain the certification, Brown said.

Author: MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM, The Kansas City Star
Section: NEWS
Page: B9

Copyright (c) 2007 The Kansas City Star