Armed and ready
Barger: 'We have to look at the safety of every faculty, student and staff member.'
On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults lost their lives after a man carrying arms walked into a Connecticut elementary school and fired.
Since that fatal day, gun control and school safety are among the top of President Barack Obama’s list and there have been more than 74 school-related shootings, according to Everytown, a group that works to end gun violence in America.
After a recent school shooting in Oregon, President Obama spoke at a Tumblr event about the nature of these school shootings and its reflection on our society.
“We are the only developed country on earth where this happens, and not once a week,” he said. “There is no place like this.”
And as the country tightens up on gun laws and school safety, the university has been working to do the same.
Last semester, it was announced that select Public Safety officers would carry firearms, and now those armed officers can be found on the three university campuses, according to Chief of Public Safety David Barger.
About one-quarter of Public Safety officers now carry a gun on them while they patrol campus. At least two officers on each campus are armed at all hours of the day, Barger said. He assured there are no plans to add additional armed officers.
Freshman Andrew Russell says he believes officers will only use the guns if they were absolutely required and that police would be called anyway, so the response time would be much quicker.
“It provides us with a thicker response to any negative situation that called upon the need for gun violence in order to keep everyone secure,” Russell said.
Response times will be quicker, according to Barger, because Public Safety is right on campus and all Public Safety officers have “profound knowledge” of the campus.
If a radio call is made concerning a situation in Echlin, the Public Safety officers would automatically know where the building is, while Hamden police would not.
For all schools and public universities in Connecticut, there are certain guidelines that must be passed in order for an officer to carry arms.
Senate Bill 1099, Public Act No. 13-188 states a school can hire or make an agreement for an officer to carry arms if that person is a police officer who retired or separated from a police organization with “good standing from the department.” It also states the retired police officer must receive training and successfully complete annual firearm training.
Since Quinnipiac is a private university, the university is not required to abide by these guidelines. However, the university followed these and created new principles of their own.
“We have gone one step above that,” Barger said.
In addition to Act 13-188, the Public Safety officers carrying arms have been through a second background investigation and went through an additional psychological test. They are instructed to use the arms only when necessary.
“We have written a use-of-force policy that mirrors use of force policy that police departments across connecticut have,” Barger said. “So there’s a training component that goes into that.”
Barger says the arms are used to protect the university.
“What we have to look at in the long run is the safety of every faculty, student and staff member here,” he said. “To take the state statute and set it as your baseline and then build upon that. That is what we are looking for. We are looking to go above.”
Barger said the university works hard to be above average as compared to other universities. He explained trained and qualified officers carrying arms on campus are an important aspect.
“We are being representative of what this university does stand for,” he said.
Russell feels comfortable with the fact that these Public Safety officers were already in law enforcement.
“It would be different if they were people that didn’t have the proper training, but because these people are already the ones who are supposed to be protecting us, we are just giving them better tools to do their job,” he said.
As planned, the university will also be sending videos through Blackboard to students and faculty members regarding safety on campus.
Some students agreed videos are the best way to teach students what to do.
“Obviously it is good to get the awareness out there and it [the video] informs students god forbid something like Sandy Hook does happen,” sophomore Meghan Blanusa said. “I feel like if it is on that subject, people are probably like, ‘Well this could happen to my own life so maybe I should watch it.’”
The Chronicle had the chance to see one of these videos that informed students about what to do if someone with a weapon entered campus.
Barger speaks to students in the video to inform them about what to do in case an intruder does walk on campus. He explains how the university notification system will send a link to students’ cell phones followed by an announcement over the loudspeakers on campus. The video continues on to show the steps students must take during a lockdown.
The short, two-minute video is only one of the videos and steps Public Safety is taking to ensure students’ safety on campus.