ROCK ISLAND -- Augustana College is considering forming a small, armed police department to supplement its existing security officers.|
The college has security via its own public safety officers, but they are unarmed and do not have police powers, said Evelyn Campbell, dean and vice president of student life. Augustana is deciding whether to leave things as they are or also have its own police.
If it is formed, the department would supplement the existing security team and consist of up to three police officers who would be armed with handguns, she said. What powers they would have is still being decided.
"That's the big decision," Ms. Campbell said.
The college administration is considering whether to make the proposal to Augustana's board of trustees and could do so either at the meeting this month or the one scheduled for May, she said. The trustees would make the final decision.
If Augustana goes forward with the idea, requirements for potential officers would include having completed police academy training or an equivalent and having carried a firearm in an official capacity at a prior job -- including former law enforcement or military.
As a police department, it would have to be certified by the state, she said.
Whether to have an armed police department has been a slow-burning discussion on campus sparked in recent years by several factors, she said.
One is the mass shootings on other campuses, including Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, she said.
"That raised the awareness for everybody," she said.
Other schools also have been adding armed security, she said.
"There is a trend toward having someone armed on campus," Ms. Campbell said.
Augustana is also working from a philosophy of being ready for a number of different emergency situations. "This, we feel, is one step in that effort, Ms. Campbell said.
If a police department is formed, it could be operational by August, she said.
Security at other Quad-Cities colleges and universities varies. Some use on-campus security who are armed police officers in their own right, with arrest and other standard law-enforcement powers, while others have safety staff who are strictly guards.
Western Illinois University's local campuses use Securitas, a private company that provides unarmed guards for general patrol, but they rely on Moline police for emergency responses.
Black Hawk College has had its own armed police department since 1999.
Eastern Iowa Community College contracts with the Scott County Sheriff's Office, and St. Ambrose University has unarmed security guards who sometimes are supplemented by armed, off-duty police officers.
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