Franklin & Marshall College is engaged in a campus discussion exploring whether to arm its Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers to respond to high-risk situations, such as a shooter on campus.
F&M joins colleges and universities across the country that have been engaged in ongoing assessment of their ability to respond to "active shooter" or other high-risk situations in the wake of several high-profile incidents involving gun violence on or near college campuses.
While the likelihood of F&M experiencing an active shooter event, armed intruders, or comparable violent crises is very low, the College's urban location, its multiple access points, and the daily presence of more than 3,000 students, employees, and visitors are contributing factors to the potential for dangerous situations occurring on or near the F&M campus.
The arming discussion arises in part from a public safety and security assessment performed in Spring 2012 by the campus safety firm Margolis, Healy & Associates that found that students, faculty and staff expect the same level of protection from F&M public safety officers as they believe they would receive from municipal officers. Current College protocols call for unarmed DPS officers to “safely monitor a high-risk situation from a distance and call for assistance from the local police” (known as a disengagement policy).
Over the next few months, F&M will hold a series of open meetings and talks with students, faculty, professional staff, campus neighbors, and the Lancaster City and Manheim Township police departments to provide opportunities to learn about arming, discuss questions and provide input.
Campus community input will inform F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield's discussions with the Franklin & Marshall College Board of Trustees. The Board has ultimate responsibility for policies promoting the security of the campus community, the effective management of legal risk and liability, and compliance with relevant local, state and federal laws. Thus, it is ultimately the Board's decision to decide whether or not to arm DPS officers.
During discussions with the campus and neighboring community, members of the senior administration will encourage exploration of all sides of the arming issue, sharing with the campus the findings of research on the topic, including an assessment of peer institutions, reviews of surveys, feedback collected from an online comments form, and data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Studies of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other entities.
Among the findings the community will consider:
A Web page providing answers to frequently asked questions about arming will be updated online throughout the community discussion process, and faculty, students, professional staff and members of the extended F&M community will be able to submit anonymous feedback online.