Augustana considering armed campus police force

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Administrators at Augustana College in Rock Island are considering a proposal to arm some of the school's public safety officers and create a small, campus police force.

Currently, 10 unarmed public safety officers serve the Rock Island campus.

The new proposal would create a three-person police department at Augustana to stand alongside seven public safety officers. Police, though, would be academy-trained and able to carry a weapon on campus.

"The potential for us having someone very quickly on scene, able to respond and perhaps neutralize a shooter, would increase," said Dr. Evelyn Campbell, Dean and Vice President of Student Life.

Monday, Campbell explained the proposal as a matter of keeping with the times.

"The landscape has changed from what I grew up in," said Campbell. "There are armed officers in high schools, as you know; they're in hospitals; they're at malls. I think it's just one of the many tools that you need in your toolbox to try to ensure that your campus is as safe as it can be."

Student reaction to the plan, though, has been mixed. Monday, many said they feel campus is safe enough already.

"I don't think it's necessary," said junior student Ashley Jensen-Anderson. "If it's that serious, then the actual Rock Island Police should come in, and they should take care of the situation."

"I think arming the public safety officers will just make everyone more scared than they are of public safety," said freshman Marckus Simmons.

Others, though, were positive about the idea.

"I think it could be good," said junior Ericka Arias. "Rock Island PD, they're here every Friday, the whole weekend, monitoring everything. I don't see why public safety shouldn't be armed if the cops are anyways."

Campbell also pointed out that the creation of campus police departments is a growing trend nationwide. According to a 2008 survey by the National Campus Safety and Security Project, nearly 76 percent of public, 4-year schools had armed officers. Only 32 percent of private, 4-year schools had the same.

No decision has been made yet on the police force's creation. Augustana's Board of Trustees must approve the establishment of a campus police department, and the proposal will go to the board at their January meeting.