Franklin & Marshall College's Board of Trustees decided June 9, 2014, that effective Sept. 2, 2014, the College will equip its sworn campus police officers in the Department of Public Safety (DPS) with side arms to safeguard the safety and security of members of the campus community.

While the likelihood of F&M experiencing a violent crisis is very low, the College's multiple access points, the daily presence of more than 3,000 students, employees, and visitors, and violent incidents at institutions across the country were factors trustees considered in making the decision. DPS officers patrol many areas outside of the grounds of the campus day and night, including the rail yard, Baker Campus, Buchanan Park and surrounding neighborhoods. The decision to provide side arms to sworn campus police officers enables these members of the public safety department to provide a higher level of protection in areas they patrol, and allows for an even more effective response to threatening situations. Non-sworn officers of DPS will continue to provide security functions and will not be armed.

F&M joins several higher education institutions in the Lancaster and Central and Eastern Pennsylvania regions that equip sworn officers with firearms, including include Millersville University, York College, Penn State-Harrisburg, Muhlenberg College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Moravian College, Juniata College and Dickinson College. 

The decision at F&M was the outcome of extensive research and an eight-month campus-wide discussion initiated by the College's leadership and completed by a Trustees' Task Force on the Question of Arming after F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield in September 2013 called for an inclusive campus conversation on the question of whether the College should arm its sworn officers.

The decision whether or not to arm rests with the College's board because of its 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.

The College conducted research, held a series of open meetings, collected feedback online and through surveys, hosted several information sessions with faculty, staff, students and community neighbors, retained external consultants, and consulted with other higher-education institutions. The content of the discussions was shared with trustees on an ongoing basis. The Board in January convened a task force that held additional campus forums, met one-on-one with faculty, students and administrators, reviewed relevant practices at other institutions, and consulted with campus safety experts before recommending to the Board that F&M arm its sworn officers.

An approximate three-month implementation timeline begins with offsite and onsite training of F&M's sworn officers through August. The Department of Public Safety also will order equipment, construct secure storage and maintenance spaces for the firearms, and have policies and procedures undergo a thorough legal review during this time. By September, sworn members of DPS will undergo qualification procedures -- including psychological testing, diversity training, and more than 30 hours of training on use of the specific side arms that officers will be issued -- for use and issuance of side arms to qualified officers.

The training will supplement the minimum of 750 hours of training, including training with firearms, that all officers and supervisors receive as part of the existing DPS requirement that they meet the state's training standards. The F&M Department of Public Safety is a fully trained and accredited police department, and officers will be expected to complete annual qualifications for firearms safety, exceeding the state requirement for qualification every five years.

The College has posted answers to frequently asked questions about the arming decision, and continues to collect questions and feedback through an anonymous online form.