June 18, 2019 | 72° F

Professors weigh in on college police officer gun use

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An unknown robber broke into the Eric B. Chandler Health Center, which is part of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, at 123 Church St. during the night of July 18-19

Crimes on college campuses over the last decade have brought on discourse regarding the necessity of campus police officers to always carry guns with them for the safety of students.

Armed police on campuses increased from 68 percent to 75 percent in the between 2011 and 2012, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report. The report, which addressed both public and private universities in the survey, said 92 percent of public universities employed armed police on campus.

James White, part-time lecturer in the Department of Political Science, finds it necessary to have armed police on college campuses.

“As long as they are getting the appropriate training then I have no problem with it,” he said. “I read the crime alert e-mails. There are 30,000 students [at Rutgers]. That’s bigger than some municipalities, so I have no problem with it.”

White, also the township administrator for East Brunswick, said he hires the police officers for the township police department, which gives him close experience to the world of law enforcement.

“I hired a Rutgers police officer,” he said. “The one I know is trained well.”

The Bureau of Justice Statistics report also determined that violent crime has dissipated by 27 percent from 2004 to 2012, yet armed and fully trained police officers have never been more common on college campuses all through the nation.

According to USA TODAY, high-impact incidents like the Virginia Tech shooting formed a need for armed police on college campuses.

On-campus shootings make it obvious that armed police are needed on campus, said Pete Serrone of the Readington Township Police Department in Hunterdon County.

“If you look at past incidents that involved shooting scenarios, break it down to who responded first,” he said. “Of course campus police will be the first ones on scene and the first to engage the shooter.”

Serrone said people send their children to college with all the tools to succeed in education, but parents often forget to consider that their kids are essentially moving to a new location that will have new, sometimes unforeseeable dangers and risks.

“Campus cops sometimes deal with much more dangerous situations when dealing with drunk and disorderly students – violent students that may not have a gun but could have a knife,” he said. “An unarmed person within 21 feet of a person with a knife could be attacked within three seconds and have no time for reaction.”

Serrone said students drinking alcohol resulting in violence is a plausible possibility on college campuses in this day and age, a more likely situation than an active shooter.

Active shooter situations as well as violence arising from intoxicated students are two examples where armed police on campus are much needed, Serrone said.

At the same time, displaying a feeling of security and safety cannot and should not be discounted as a valuable result from armed campus police.

Mark Desire, a lecturer in the Criminal Justice Department said of his time at Rutgers-Camden, it is clear to see that the perception he has of his college years was garnered largely from how safe he felt walking around campus.

“Coming from a fellow student at Rutgers-Camden in the 1980s, having the presence of an armed police officer and a squad car made us feel comfortable, especially when taking night classes,” he said.

Adam Nardelli

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