Licensed Brown U. Police Officers Begin Carrying Firearms

U-WIRE-01/25/2006-Brown U.: Licensed Brown U. police officers begin carrying firearms (C) 2006 Brown Daily Herald Via U-WIRE

By Chloe Lutts, Brown Daily Herald (Brown U.)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- After receiving approval from Brown University President Ruth Simmons, licensed Department of Public Safety police officers began carrying firearms Jan. 11. Simmons announced her decision to approve the arming of licensed officers, marking the culmination of a two-year process, in an e-mail to the Brown community sent that afternoon.

Arming extends to sworn campus police officers, who are police academy graduates, licensed by the Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and authorized to enforce state statutes as well as university rules and regulations, Simmons wrote in the e-mail.

All 33 sworn police officers now carry firearms, said Chief of Police Mark Porter. Between three and five sworn officers work during each shift, he added.

DPS security officers, who are charged only with enforcing University rules and regulations, and contracted security officers, who wear distinctive yellow jackets, will not be armed.

Now that licensed officers carry firearms, they can do more to ensure the safety of the community, such as pursue and apprehend suspects in situations that would have previously mandated disengagement, Porter said.

"The reason for arming is that it just expands the number of services" that campus police officers can provide, said Mark Nickel, director of University Communications, in an interview with The Herald. Prior to arming, these officers were unable to intervene in potentially dangerous situations because of their disengagement policy, he said.

"Officers are trained to respond to people who need to be helped, and a policy of disengagement is counter to that," Nickel said.

Before officers were armed, DPS policy required them to disengage when faced with a violent crime or weapon.

In her e-mail, Simmons noted the limits previously encountered by campus police officers "when faced with a violent crime or weapon." She described the disengagement policy as "untenable insofar as assuring the safety of our community."

The commanding officer at the Providence Police Department's Brook Street substation, Lt. Paul Campbell, echoed the message that this measure will further enable campus police officers to keep the Brown community safe. He cited an incident earlier this winter when shots were fired on Brown Street. Campus police who witnessed the event were forced to take cover rather than pursue the suspect, who fled on foot.

However, Campbell said he could not recall any time in recent years when an officer had fired his weapon in the ninth district, where Brown is located.

Campus police officers will continue to work hand in hand with the Providence Police Department, which will maintain a police detail near Brown's campus, Porter said.

David Greene, vice president for campus life and student services and a member of the committee overseeing the arming process, said that when he was a student he did not notice any major differences between campuses with armed police forces and those with unarmed police forces. He added that he believes the decision to arm will ultimately make the campus safer for students.

In the fall of 2001, Brown commissioned William Bratton, former chief of police for New York City, to study campus safety. Bratton and his consultants compiled a report recommending the arming of licensed campus police officers along with other safety measures that have since been implemented. Recommendations were made in 12 areas, including coordination with the Providence Police Department and crime and incident reporting and analysis, Nickel said. He also noted that "significant progress" has been made, as recommendations have been implemented in all 12 areas.

According to Simmons' e-mail, measures already taken include increasing the size of the police force, improving coordination with the Providence Police Department and providing them with space for a substation on campus, adjusting the hours and locations of patrols, expanding the shuttle program, adding street lighting and appointing a new director of public safety.

The university's steps to arm officers lasted over two years. The Herald reported in December 2003 that Simmons had decided to initiate the arming process. "The decision to proceed to issuing firearms will not be made until we are fully satisfied that the Department is ready," she wrote in an e-mail to the Brown community Dec. 1, 2003. In the Jan. 11 e-mail, Simmons wrote that "the preparation process was complete."


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