June 12--WILKES-BARRE -- Wilkes University announced today that it will begin to arm some members of its public safety department, creating a hybrid force that the university says will be better equipped to act as first responders on campus and coordinate with the Wilkes-Barre Police Department.
In announcing the decision, University President Patrick F. Leahy said it followed two years of study that began when he became president in July 2012.
"Soon after I became Wilkes' sixth president, I identified a number of key issues that would be priorities during my presidency," Leahy said. "Ensuring the safety of our students was among them and it remains among my highest priorities. This decision will enhance our already safe campus with increased security."
The decision to arm public safety officers grew out of recommendations made by Margolis Healy & Associates, a nationally recognized consulting firm specializing in college and school security issues, according to a press release issued Thursday.
Wilkes hired the Vermont-based firm in 2012 to conduct an evaluation of its public safety function. Arming officers was among a number of recommendations made by the firm.
According to the release, Wilkes has already implemented many of the report's other recommendations including:
--Adding dedicated dispatchers to the public safety department;
--Increasing visibility for officers patrolling campus; 3
--An enhanced security camera system
--Hiring a new public safety director.
Wilkes also held campus meetings with students, faculty and staff to gather opinions and answer questions about arming officers.
Copyright 2014 - The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.