Dealing with the realities of campus security

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Iowans will have to wait a little longer to find out if campus security at the three state universities will be armed. The Iowa Board of Regents met recently in Council Bluffs to discuss security and voted to develop a comprehensive safety and security plan, but stopped short of authorizing the arming of campus security guards.

In previous discussions of the issue of arming campus security, regents wanted the input of campus security, university administration and staff. In September, the presidents of the three public universities said they supported the proposal for campus police to be armed. The University of Northern Iowa Faculty Senate voted against the recommendations, while the faculty at the other two state universities -- the University of Iowa and ISU -- voted to support it.

The regents want to work out the details of arming security from the type of ammunition the officers would use, the certification that they would be required to have, and whether there would be background checks and psychological profiles of the officers carrying weapons.

In an Associated Press report, Gene Deisinger, commander of special operations with Iowa State University campus police, said his office helped write the recommendation to arm campus police and "certainly the preference or our officers is for that to be addressed as timely as possible."

Deisinger said it's a misconception that the mass slayings at other schools, including the shooting at Virginia Tech in April, spurred the move.

Campus safety is constantly reviewed and arming campus police has been a long-standing issue of discussion, he said, adding that the initial recommendation was drafted about a year ago.

We all want our students to be safe and the Virginia Tech shootings have spurred many colleges and universities to take a long, hard look at security. While arming campus security may allow parents to sleep better, it is not a magic fix to the issue of security. The shooter at Virginia Tech was in need of mental health care that the university could not or chose not to give, or the student refused.

Communication and privacy concerns need to be addressed so potential problems can be avoided before campus security is involved. These decisions will be much more difficult than arming security guards.