The University of Rhode Island is arming its police force as of Friday. Preparations have been underway for a little more than a year. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison has details.
A gun scare in 2013 led to the decision last year to arm police on URI's rural Kingston campus. Though it turned out there wasn’t any gun, the false alarm pointed out the drawbacks of unarmed officers, who had to wait for armed police to respond to the incident.
The University of Rhode Island has begun training campus police officers to carry guns after a controversial decision in April to arm the campus police force.
Public Safety Stephen Baker says the goal is to have all 27 campus officers carrying guns by the start of the Spring semester.
"State police have completed 17 of the background checks and they’ve been delivered to us. The next step in that process is to have those officers go through psychological examinations," Baker said. "Then we’ll begin the actual firearms training, and that’s planned for the month of October."
University of Rhode Island officials have announced they plan to arm campus police, despite vocal critics, who say the change will not make campus safer.
The university announced the decision after a year of public meetings and discussions with faculty, students and staff. In a statement, URI President David Dooley called the change critical.
"In order to provide the safest environment possible and to ensure a timely response to any threat to the safety of our campuses, our police officers must be equipped properly to function as first responders,” Dooley said.
Rhode Island College has decided against arming its campus police force. In an email, RIC President Nancy Carriuolo said a campus survey showed the college community about equally divided on the issue, though she stressed the vast majority did not respond to the survey.
Carriuolo said she made the decision after discussions with campus police and her cabinet.
Standardized testing is underway in Rhode Island public schools, where students take the New England Common Assessment Program or NECAP every October. The tests of math and reading are administered to grades 3-8 and 11 between October 1st and the 23rd. This year some 4,000 12th graders are also taking the test and must improve their scores to meet the state’s controversial new test-based graduation requirement.