Since educational institutions have been targeted for violent behaviour in the past, many colleges and higher education institutions have taken it upon themselves to have armed police within campus premises to ensure the safety of their students.
While some people might be intimidated by this decision or wonder if it is absolutely necessary, incidents that take place on campus sites in the past have emphasized the need for armed protection.
If you are going to college soon and are worried about being around armed police, then here are some essential details you need to know.
Who are Campus Police?
If we look back in history, we know that colleges have had criminal activity and incidents of violence for a long time.
Researchers who study criminal behaviour among youth believe that campus violence is bound to happen when too many young people live within a small space. However, until the mid-20th century, campus police was not an official position.
Colleges did not hire trained personnel for the job.
Instead, the policing was done mainly by existing staff members of the institution which included lecturers, administrators, and maintenance workers.
But since the incidents of violence and hate within college campuses began to grow, more and more institutions lobbied for state legislatures so that they can create their own police force within the campus. After many years, now in our current timeline, majority of the states have laws that permit colleges and universities to have their own police force.
Just past the early 2000s, nearly 87% of college campuses had officers with the power to arrest and more than 90% of such police officers were armed.
It is important to understand that campus police are a completely self-sufficient entity. In other words, they are responsible for handling their own complaints and dispatching officers as they see fit.
They do not rely on the police officers from their city to help with complaints made within the campus – unless the situation calls for further help.
The primary objective of campus police is to protect the private property of the college as well as the surrounding areas.
They are also responsible to protect the individuals who live, study and work within the campus. Even if it is just a visitor or guest, the campus police are responsible for their safety too.
Some colleges to do not refer to these individuals as campus police, but rather prefer the term campus security. Despite the difference in terminology, the duties of the individuals are the same.
What are the Responsibilities of Campus Police?
The responsibilities of the police within any campus have drastically changed over time.
In the previous century, campus police were only dealing with crimes committed within the campus premises.
Meanwhile, security guards appointed by the campus were only responsible for protecting the property and had no active role in ensuring the public safety of those living and studying in the campus.
However, this has changed with time where campus police and their job responsibilities have increased slowly and steadily.
It is difficult to give a clear outline of the responsibilities of campus police since campus police may constitute of different individuals.
While some colleges strictly use unarmed public safety officers, certain other colleges prefer to use armed police. Some campuses also employ security guards and others rely on the support of local law enforcement agencies.
There are of course also institutions that use a hybrid model where they rely on multiple types of security for increased safety. So, since a wide range of individuals can be responsible for the safety of the campus and those who exist within it, the duties and responsibilities of these individuals can easily overlap.
The general duty of armed police officers is to protect both the property and the individuals in the campus.
But this of course does not mean all cases need to be handled internally. In many colleges, armed police and public safety officers have mutual aid agreements with their local law enforcement authorities. Therefore, the campus police is allowed to call on local law enforcement when serious crimes are committed.
Why are Campus Police Armed?
After the 1990s, there was a steady growth in armed police officers within campus premises. This was a result of the increase in shootings in educational institutions such as schools, colleges and universities.
Since they became a serious threat to the lives of both staff and students at such institutions, laws were amended to install armed guards at campus premises.
However, interestingly in the recent past, some campuses have replaced armed police officers with public safety officers who are unarmed.
This change was mainly implemented to reduce costs caused by security as well as to address concerns by parents and civil society regarding the use of armed police within campus premises.
But despite this change, it is still possible to many campus police armed while they are on campus premises.
The rationale behind this is to ensure the protection of the students and staff at the campus, while also avoiding endangerment to the campus property.
Many students can have concerns about studying in an educational institution that has armed police. In this case, it is important to know that campus police officers from most states go through the same training as the local police officers in the city.
This means that they have been both trained and educated on how to deal with various situations just the same as police officers who are off campus.
In the recent years, the training offered to campus police officers has been increased to ensure their presence mitigates problems without escalating them into worse levels.
For examples, these trainings primarily focus on how to deal with people and educate these campus police officers on how to defuse various high-stake situations. All these measures are taken to ensure that campus police understand the importance of their job and does it in a safe and responsible manner.
In addition to this, many colleges also invest on conducting trainings and awareness programs for both the students and staff on necessary safety procedures they must follow during emergency situations. This holistic approach and preparedness help them mitigate the possible negative consequences during an unforeseen threat.