Is Princeton University justified in arming campus police?

Courtesy+of+Princeton+University

Courtesy of Princeton University

Oliver McIntosh, Staff Writer

In the past year, campus shootings in the United States have become increasingly visible. Even a quick glance at the news suggests school shootings are happening now more than ever before; nearly every day, an article portrays the unfortunate aftermath of a new tragedy. Indeed, the number of separate school shootings in 2015 has now climbed to 52, leaving 30 people dead and 53 others injured.Put differently,this year alone, 83 people, each part of his or her own community, have been injured or killed by a gunman on a school campus. In Princeton, we are blessed enough to not know the firsthand experience of being a member of a community affected by such an event.

Last month, Princeton University administrators took steps to help ensure Princeton stays safe. On October 13, the Princeton University Department of Public Safety (DPS), in consultation with the Princeton Police Department and senior administration, announced their decision to begin allowing DPS officers access to firearms. This decision allows campus officers the ability to stop an active shooter situation from becoming fatal, minimizing response time to as little as possible. Law enforcement professionals know the best practice is to get an armed officer on the scene as quickly as possible, as the first armed officer to arrive is the first one who can interrupt the shooter. The University’s decision minimizes the time it will take to get an armed officer on the scene, potentially saving lives. Prior to this decision, procedure in the case of an active shooter on the University campus was for DPS officers

In the event of an armed person threatening the safety of a community, it is impossible to overstate the value of an equally or better armed and qualified person dedicated to protecting the community. The sworn members of the DPS more than meet those criteria, having been fully trained in firearm handling to Criminal Justice Police Training standards, the same standards and authority of commissioned police officers. However, campus officers will remain, as they always have been, there to be approachable for any assistance, and the new measures should not change that or the community’s perception of officers. These new measures authorize to shelter in place and wait for armed Princeton Police officers to arrive. In such a sensitive and easily escalated situation, it goes without saying that the minutes spent waiting for local police officers to be notified, equipped, and arrive on scene can literally be the difference between life and death.

In the event of an armed person threatening the safety of a community, it is impossible to overstate the value of an equally or better armed and qualified person dedicated to protecting the community. The sworn members of the DPS more than meet those criteria, having been fully trained in firearm handling to Criminal Justice Police Training standards, the same standards and authority of commissioned police officers. However, campus officers will remain, as they always have been, there to be approachable for any assistance, and the new measures should not change that or the community’s perception of officers. These new measures authorize officers to carry rifles in their cars, not on their persons, which keeps the campus officers’ social role the same: as a helpful and protective presence. The only difference will be their increased preparedness and effectiveness in helping protect the University and its community.

In the wake of far too many tragic campus shootings, I believe it is extremely reassuring and overwhelmingly positive that Princeton University has recognized the necessity of giving its officers the resources to swiftly and effectively protect themselves and the University community so that Princeton may never have to know firsthand the tragedy of a campus shooting.

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