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. A decision from the College's Board of Trustees is expected in early 2014. On this page are answers to frequently asked questions about factors in consideration for this decision, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of arming.
A: A majority of institutions of higher education have sworn and armed officers. A survey completed in 2004-05 by the Bureau of Justice Studies of the U.S. Department of Justice showed that 67 percent of campus law enforcement agencies surveyed (750 in total) were armed, and 90 percent of agencies with sworn officers were armed.
In the Lancaster and Central Pennsylvania regions, several higher education institutions equip certified officers with firearms, including Millersville University, York College, Penn State-Harrisburg, Muhlenberg College, Lehigh University, Moravian College, Juniata College, and Dickinson College. Gettysburg College is a peer institution that does not.
While the majority of the top 50 national liberal arts colleges do not have sworn officers like F&M, almost all of those colleges that do have sworn officers also arm them. Each institution must weigh the risks and benefits of arming its officers or sustaining an unarmed campus police force for itself.
A: This review is coming at a time when institutions of higher education are increasingly being held accountable and legally liable for the safety of their campus communities. In addition to the unquantifiable toll that a tragedy takes on families and a campus community, failure to protect the community with armed officers may leave the institution open to legal claims of malfeasance, especially given the documented rise of active shooters at educational institutions.
As the University Risk Management and Insurance Association wrote in 2011, “From a risk management and legal defense perspective, colleges and universities should be in line with other institutions in their cohort or they may have some explaining to do in event of legal action. There may be good and sound reasons why an institution differs, but administrators and risk managers must be prepared to demonstrate those reasons and show that the institution’s leaders considered those differences in making a conscious decision to diverge.”
A: Like virtually all American campuses, the College is accessible to our local community for events, use of facilities, or simply for walks on and through campus. F&M sits next to a city park, which DPS patrols. 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.
A: The F&M Department of Public Safety currently has policies and procedures for dealing with most safety scenarios, including the ability for DPS to contend with an armed person, a shooting incident, or other violent high-risk situations on or near the campus. Procedures call for DPS Officers to alert Lancaster City or Manheim Township Police and await their arrival. DPS officers are advised to monitor the situation from a safe distance (a protocol known as "disengagement").
During the early moments of a potentially threatening event, College policy calls for DPS to instruct community members to “Shelter,” “Shut,” and “Listen” while awaiting further instructions. Once an active shooter event has been confirmed, College policy is for DPS to instruct community members to “Run,” “Hide,” and “Survive.” Current protocols call for DPS officers to arrive at the scene quickly (less than one minute from the time of the call) and await a response from municipal police. DPS officers currently are authorized to carry a baton/night stick and Oleoresin Capsiecum spray (pepper spray), but not firearms.
A: The College's DPS officers have the professional training and certification, authority, procedures, supervision, active knowledge of the campus community, and relationships with local law enforcement, to provide the highest level of expected protection for an armed response. All are certified police officers in the State of Pennsylvania, trained in weapons use, and empowered with patrol and arrest powers both on campus property and adjacent areas.
The College requires all officers and supervisors to be certified under Pennsylvania Act 120, which requires graduation from a municipal police academy approved by the Pennsylvania Municipal Police Education and Training Commission (MPOETC). In Pennsylvania, that certification requires a minimum of 750 hours of training (including training with firearms). This is the same training that is required for all municipal police officers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In addition to maintaining a staff of sworn police officers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, F&M's Department of Public Safety is accredited by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. Approximately five percent of all law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania have achieved accreditation, ans F&M is one of five higher education police departments in the state of Pennsylvania that have achieved accreditation.
The Department recruits a balance of veteran police officers and officers who have recently completed their Academy training. Most of the sworn personnel are experienced with carrying firearms as part of their duties as a police officer prior to coming to F&M and, in some cases, in a current part-time job working for a municipal police department.
A: Response time is greater for local police than campus police. Local police may not have an active knowledge of the campus, its facilities, and its community. A difference of a few minutes can mean lives saved.
Only sworn police officers could be armed. The College cannot arm its unsworn DPS personnel. Among the sworn police officers, it may be an option to arm a subset of the force, but it is very likely that response times to significant incidents would be lengthened, or that the number of armed officers responding could be smaller than is necessary to address a situation quickly. In addition, when some officers are armed and others are not, there is the risk that some officers will be better able to protect themselves than others can.
A: In a mass shooting or another safety emergency, an immediate response is required. Arranging for officers to remove weapons from a locked cabinet would increase response time and the risk for casualties. Unarmed officers can also be easy targets for a shooter.
A: Less-than-lethal weapons, such as taser guns, should be considered as an option, and a taser gun can be effective in many situations. However, a taser gun does not have a long range or the ability to fire multiple rounds if necessary; in an active shooter situation, the taser gun would have limited effectiveness.
A: While there is always a possibility of an accident, DPS officers are highly trained in how to handle firearms and if they become armed, they will be required to complete additional training, be subject to periodic inspections and be required to complete periodic practice exercises using firearms. As mentioned previously, most DPS officers currently carry or have carried firearms in other positions they have held outside of DPS.
Under Pennsylvania Statute, 22 P.S. 501, sworn campus police officers (vs. unsworn security officers) at private colleges are sworn police officers in the county in which the college is located. They have all of the powers of arrest that any municipal or state police officers have within their jurisdiction. In Pennsylvania statute, Title 18 – Crimes and Offenses, defines “campus police” as employees of an institution of higher education who exercise powers of arrest under authority of law or ordinance. Title 18 also outlines that Franklin & Marshall College DPS officers can exercise their powers “in and upon, and in the immediate and adjacent vicinity of the property.”
Franklin & Marshall College has property in two municipalities – Lancaster City and Manheim Township. The College has a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Lancaster City Bureau of Police outlining roles and responsibilities of each party. Franklin & Marshall will soon be working with Manheim Township on a similar memorandum.
A: While DPS enjoys strong relationships with Lancaster Police and Manheim Township Police, those departments do not currently have the staff to patrol the areas DPS currently patrols with the same frequency as DPS currently does. It is possible that F&M could pay for additional services from the City and Manheim Township to patrol these areas on a more frequent basis.
DPS employs an educational approach with our students working with our students to keep them safe and refer them to the College judicial process if the situation calls for it. Lancaster Police and Manheim Township Police take a community policing approach and would not ordinarily work with the College’s judicial process. Response to an active shooter situation on campus may improve slightly by having Lancaster City and Manheim Township police closer to campus on a more frequent basis.
Initial start-up costs for arming officers in F&M's Department of Public Safety are estimated at between $70,000 and $80,000, which includes acquisition of equipment, training, maintenance supplies and storage. Ongoing costs are approximately $20,000 per year, which includes training, equipment and maintenance supplies.