Maryville University Transitions to Armed Public Safety Personnel Effective August 2016
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why will Public Safety be armed?
There is only one reason that this decision was made at this time and that is the growing national climate of mass shootings in general and increasingly on campuses. Since Columbine and Virginia Tech, campus shootings are on the rise. Maryville is a safe campus by all statistics but we feel strongly that we need to arm and train Public Safety so that they can protect students, faculty and staff in the event that someone attempts to engage in such violence.
Public Safety officers can provide a higher level of service to campus, with a shorter response time, if officers are armed. For example, in dealing with armed and dangerous suspects public safety officers can respond much faster while Town and Country police are on their way.
2. Is campus dangerous enough to need arming?
Compared to other campuses in our region and across the nation, Maryville has a low incidence of crime and violence. All over the country there are Public Safety Departments on campuses or in small communities that seldom have violent crimes, and yet those officers are armed as standard practice. Public Safety officers are armed as a deterrent to those who might choose to use violence against community members or officers. Officers are armed because there is no way to accurately predict what subjects or situations might threaten life.
3. How will Public Safety personnel be trained?
Maryville is working to develop and implement a thorough, rigorous, meaningful and mandatory training process for all officers. As Public Safety trains its current officers or hires new personnel, the department will look for the best, most-skilled candidates who can excel in the campus environment. In addition to a complete training on the use of firearms, our security officers will undergo fit-for-duty testing (psychological evaluation), and de-escalation of violence training, etc. That training is also ongoing and periodic for all Public Safety officers. Many of our Public Safety officers have been trained in the use of firearms as it relates to other jobs they have had as police or in private security. The training they will undergo as part of this policy is extensive.
4. How would the presence of guns affect the campus culture?
The primary difference in culture is that the presence of an armed Public Safety officer might help deter a potential active shooter. And, it could potentially save the lives of our community members if a security officer was able to stop an active shooter.
Otherwise, our approach to public safety on campus will not change –our security personnel will continue to be student-centered, relational and engaged members of our community. They will report to Student Life as they do now. When criminal activity is suspected they will call Town and Country police as they do now. Public safety is not here to POLICE us. They are here to protect us. This gives them another tool in the event of an active shooter situation.
5. Does this Public Safety transition change Maryville’s policy about guns on campus?
Absolutely not. No one – other than active duty police officers who are required to carry their gun and our trained Public Safety personnel – may bring a gun onto campus.
6. Is this a trend among universities nationally?
Currently all public colleges and universities in Missouri have public safety officers who are armed and many private schools such as Washington U and SLU do as well. In a 2012 survey of U.S. universities, 75% of public safety officers on college campuses were armed. The number of schools who are moving in this direction is growing for the same reasons that we are doing it.
7. What information was used to make this decision and how long has it been examined?
This action has been thoroughly analyzed for over a year. We have looked at other campuses, statistical data regarding shootings, accidental shootings and other such events. We consulted with law enforcement experts and examined what are the best ways to potentially stop someone from engaging in a mass shooting. All agree that the best way to stop a shooter bent on killing is to have a trained and armed public safety force who can potentially stop a shooter before they enter a building.
8. When Public Safety officers are armed on campuses are there more accidental shootings or issues?
The answer to this is clearly no. There are few, if any, incidents of such issues on college campuses across the country.
9. What equipment will the Maryville safety officers carry?
Public Safety officers will carry side arms only. All firearms will be rigorously safeguarded and secured.
10. What other measures are being taken for campus safety?
We have added more cameras in public areas. We have also engaged in active shooter training and will expand that training for all staff, faculty and students in a building-by-building approach to maximize information and enhance strategies for people’s safety.