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. Below are answers to the frequently asked questions on this topic.

Q: Why has Franklin & Marshall College decided to arm its sworn campus police officers in its Department of Public Safety?   

A: The Franklin & Marshall College Board of Trustees decided June 9, 2014, that the College will equip sworn campus police officers in the Department of Public Safety with side arms as part of the College's overall efforts to ensure the safety and security of the campus community. Previous protocols called 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).

After extensive research and assessment, and a campus-wide discussion, the College leadership concluded that arming sworn officers will allow them to provide a higher level of protection in the areas they patrol, and to allow for a more effective response in high-risk situations. Non-sworn officers will continue to provide security functions, such as responding to open buildings and lockouts, and will not be armed.

Q: What factors did trustees consider in deciding to arm the Department of Public Safety's sworn officers? 

A: The arming discussion arose at F&M, in part, as the result of a public safety and security assessment conducted in Spring 2012 by the campus safety firm Margolis, Healy & Associates. The assessment 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. The College also conducted more than six months and assessment to arrive at a white paper outlining factors to consider in a discussion on the question of arming.

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. In addition, trustees assigned considerable weight to the sustained development of the College's Department of Public Safety into a trained and accredited campus police force.

Q: What was the decision process that led to the arming decision?

A: The process began with a six-month research and exploratory process conducted by the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration and the Department of Public Safety to establish the feasibility of opening a discussion about arming. After this process, President Daniel R. Porterfield formally asked the campus community to consider the question of arming. The June 9, 2014, decision by the College's trustees came after a subsequent eight-month campus-wide discussion that included extensive conversations with faculty, staff and students and the community-at-large surrounding the question of whether the College should arm its sworn officers.

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 administration did not make a formal recommendation to the board, but instead the content of the campus' exploratory discussions was shared with trustees on an ongoing basis. The Board of Trustees then in January convened a Trustees' Task Force on the Question of Arming 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.

The final decision rests with the College's Board of Trustees because it is charged with promoting the security of the campus community, assessing and managing legal risk and liability, and compliance with relevant local, state and federal laws.

Q: To what extent did the campus surveys on arming influence the arming decision?

A: Trustees expressed that among the most influential elements for their deliberations were the views expressed by faculty, students, professional staff and administrators in the campus forums, one-on-one meetings, and the surveys. All of the feedback revealed that there were strong perspectives on every side of this issue, and helped the Board understand community concerns about safety and firearms.

Trustees said that, while the surveys showed that a majority of constituents were open to the idea of arming sworn officers, the true value was having a confidential method of gaining an understanding of constituent viewpoints to supplement the various public meetings and forums. All of the opportunities for engagement informed how various safety and security measures might be implemented to sustain improvements to campus safety, whether or not the decision was to arm the Department of Public Safety's sworn officers.

The members of the task force asserted that it was the Board's responsibility to look at the question of arming objectively and analytically, and the surveys helped the Board fulfill its obligation to decide how best to ensure the safety and security of the campus community.

Q: Is the decision final? Will there be a trial period? 

A: The trustees' decision to equip the College's sworn officers means that the College will launch an implementation plan to arm DPS's sworn officers, beginning in Fall 2014.  The arming decision is expected to be final, although the College has a practice of reviewing all institutional policies to meet the needs of the institution over time and to ensure compliance with higher education best practices.

Q: What is the implementation timeline? How soon will Public Safety officers start to carry firearms? 

A: An approximate three-month implementation timeline begins with on- and off-campus training of F&M's sworn officers through August 2014. 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 additional training on use of the specific side arms that officers will be issued -- prior to the issuance of the side arms to qualified officers.

Q: Are Franklin & Marshall's DPS officers trained and qualified to carry firearms?

A: The College's sworn 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 of the sworn officers of DPS are fully trained police officers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, trained in weapons use, and empowered with patrol and arrest powers both on campus property and adjacent areas.

The College mandates that all officers and supervisors be trained 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, meeting state standards 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 throughout the Commonwealth. In addition, all officers and supervisors are trained under Act 235, which provides certification to privately employed agents to carry various types of weapons.

In addition to maintaining a staff of sworn police officers, 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, and F&M is one of five higher education police departments in Pennsylvania that have achieved accreditation. 

The Department recruits 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. 

Subsequent to the arming decision, the sworn officers' additional training will include psychological testing, diversity training, and more than 30 hours of additional training on use of the specific side arms they will be issued. Officers will be expected to complete annual qualifications for firearms safety, exceeding the state requirement for qualification every five years.

Q: What types of guns will public safety officers carry?

A: The College's sworn officers will carry the same side arms that Lancaster City Police and many other municipal departments use.

Q: What are the guidelines for when an officer might remove his or her side arm from its holster? In which situations might campus police use their side arms? 

A: At the end of each shift, officers will remove their side arms and return them to a secured storage area. In the line of duty, officers may remove their side arms from their holsters only during incidents that they have been trained to identify as posing imminent danger to a person or persons after all other efforts to de-escalate the situation have proved ineffective.

Q: What safety measures will be instituted to limit access to the side arms to authorized personnel?

A: As part of the implementation process, the College will construct a storage facility in a secure location that is equipped with numerous safeguards. College policy will require officers to store their side arms and ammunition in these secure storage facilities. Side arms and ammunition are stored separately. Only authorized individuals will have access to this area.

In addition, officers will be issued and trained to use holsters with the highest level of side arm security.  Officers are trained to hold and protect their firearms so they are fully secure until needed. The Department of Public Safety will audit side arms and ammunition periodically to ensure compliance.

Q: How will Public Safety respond to concerns about the potential for profiling? 

A: One of the benefits of having the F&M Department of Public Safety equipped to be the force to respond to campus violent incidents is that the campus officers are familiar with the College's faculty, staff and students and have built relationships through its strong community-policing model. In addition, as part of their ongoing training and accreditation procedures, Department of Public Safety officers participate in periodic diversity training to ensure officers are following best practices and are sensitive to cultural practices, observances and general concerns of diverse groups. DPS also is required to maintain demographic records on all stops in accordance with policing standards that must be met for ongoing accreditation.

Q: If I call a public safety officer, will I have the option of an officer responding who is not armed? 

A: Just as it does now, the Department of Public Safety's communications center will assign sworn or non-sworn officers to respond to various situations as appropriate. For example, non-sworn officers may be assigned to respond to lockouts or to help with general security questions, as they do now. Non-sworn officers largely provide a security function and are not armed.

Q: Will there be an evaluation of whether arming the officers serves as a crime deterrent?

A: The College leadership and trustees will continue to evaluate safety and security procedures to ensure the campus community is as safe as possible. This will include ongoing assessments of police operations and procedures as we work to implement comprehensive enhancements to our safety and security plan. The College also publishes each year a Safety and Security Report that meets federal guidelines.

Q: Will the College disqualify an officer from side arm use if there is an accidental shooting?

A: College leadership would investigate any incident involving discharge of a firearm, including improper storage, accidental discharge or any other serious incident. The matter will be handled according to policy and practice, and may involve disciplinary action of the officer and/or others involved if they are found to be in violation of policy or the law.

Q: Will the officers take their side arms home, or will they be stored on campus?

A: All side arms issued to public safety sworn officers will be secured in a locked facility on campus. Officers will retrieve their side arms at the beginning of their shifts, secure them in specially designed protective holsters, and return the firearms to the secure storage facility at the end of their shifts. Officers may not carry firearms off campus unless they are on duty and on patrol.

Q: How does Franklin & Marshall College compare to other institutions with respect to 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 and Eastern Pennsylvania regions, several higher education institutions equip sworn officers with firearms, including Millersville University, York College, Penn State-Harrisburg, Muhlenberg College, Lehigh University, Moravian College, Juniata College, Lafayette 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, almost all of those colleges that do have sworn officers also arm them. Each institution must weigh for itself the risks and benefits of arming its officers or sustaining an unarmed campus police force. 

Q: Is there national guidance on whether colleges and universities should arm their DPS officers?

A: This review is coming at a time when institutions of higher education increasingly are 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.”

Q: Was this decision made to arm because there is a concern about the safety of the F&M campus and the surrounding area?

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 a violent crisis or incident is very low, the College's 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.

Q: What is the cost of arming officers in F&M's Department of Public Safety?

A: Initial start-up costs for arming sworn officers in F&M's Department of Public Safety are estimated at between $40,000 and $50,000, which includes acquisition of equipment, training, maintenance supplies and storage. Ongoing costs are approximately $10,000 per year, which includes training, equipment and maintenance supplies.

Q: Until DPS is armed, how do Public Safety officers currently respond to an incident involving an armed individual or shooter on 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 Capsicum spray (pepper spray), but not firearms.

Q: Was it an option for the College to depend on local police to respond when a situation requires an armed response?

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.

Q: Did the College consider arming only supervisors or a subset of the DPS police force?

A: Only sworn police officers can be armed. The College cannot arm its unsworn DPS personnel. Among the sworn police officers, it may have been 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.

Q: Can the firearms be locked up in a cabinet and only taken out when necessary?

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.

Q: Was it an option to arm officers with less-than-lethal weapons, such as taser guns, instead of firearms?

A: Less-than-lethal weapons, such as taser guns, were considered as an option, because a taser gun can be effective in many situations. However, a taser gun does not have a long range or the ability to be deployed more than once, if necessary. In a very dangerous situation, the taser gun would have limited effectiveness.

Q: What does this decision to arm DPS mean for the surrounding Lancaster community off-campus?

A: 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. 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. 

Q: Did the College consider an option of removing DPS from neighborhood patrols and instead relying on Lancaster City Police to patrol the surrounding neighborhoods and Buchanan Park?

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.

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.