Community College Expected to Allow Officers to Carry Guns on Campus
As early as next fall, police at Cape Cod Community College may patrol its wooded campus in West Barnstable armed with guns.
Administrators have proposed arming the school's force of three sworn police officers. They cite school shootings like the one at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last fall as a reason for the change.
Student Senate President Christopher DeDecko says he's heard surprisingly little pushback from students on the proposal.
"I was kind of expecting more perspectives in terms of view points on this issue, but it seems the news coverage of the school shootings made people realize it's the harsh reality that this something we need to be prepared for," he said. "I think for the most part students understand that and seem to agree with it."
DeDecko supports the proposal, and he says officials made a compelling argument at a recent meeting with the school's 16 student senators.
"Given all these kind of external factors we found that we needed some extra security on our campus," he said.
College Police Chief Karen Ahern says most of the feedback she's received has been positive, though she has heard a few concerns.
"There has been some negative feedback from some people that are concerned--and rightfully so--it is very different to have weapons on campus," she said. "We're trying to talk about statistics and different trends that have happened."
For Ahern, the issue of arming officers comes down to response time. She says it takes Barnstable police at least two minutes to get to campus to respond to an incident--and those two minutes can be critical.
"If you look at Sandy Hook, I think the first call that went out to police and the first police officer arriving on scene was two minutes and fourteen seconds," she said. "Look at the number of lives that were lost in two minutes and fourteen seconds."
The school has also had several gun-related incidents in recent years; a student was arrested in 2012 for carrying a semi-automatic handgun to class, and a man threatened to shoot students in class in 2013.
More broadly, Ahern also says there were some 270 incidents of violent crimes recorded in the town of Barnstable in 2014.
"So, the Cape is not immune to violent crimes," she said. "There are weapons on the Cape."
School officers have already attended the police academy, and Ahern says they will undergo psychological evaluations before receiving a weapon.
Ahern hasn’t decided what type of firearm officers will carry. She says she’ll look to other local police departments for guidance.
"It would definitely be a firearm that one of the departments in the vicinity carries," she said. "[For example,] the SWAT team on the Cape--there are several different weapons within that team, so the final determination hasn't been made just yet."
But before she purchases any weapons, the school's board of trustees must approve the change. They’re expected to vote on the proposal later this summer. If they approve it, Cape Cod Community College would join eight other community colleges statewide with armed police on campus.