California Baptist University’s Safety Services has recently started the process of arming some public safety officers in an attempt to help better protect the campus.
Jim Walters, director of Public Safety at CBU, said the university is responding to trends in the United States. Domestic terrorism against non-governmental and non-military targets are increasing, targeted violence against education institutions are increasing, and violent crime, in general, is increasing in America.
A plan was brought before the Board of Trustees in spring 2016 to provide firearms for some public safety officers. The plan was approved unanimously and Safety Services is in the process of implementing the plan.
“The decision follows continuing increases in violent crime, terrorist incidents and targeted violence against schools, colleges and universities,” said Dr. Mark Wyatt, vice president for Marketing and Communication and interim vice president for University Advancement.
The initial plan is to arm 13 public safety officers, with two to three armed officers per shift. Public safety officers who carry guns have gone through multiple background checks and psychological tests in addition to state licensing.
The majority of the initial selection of officers has already been armed, but Walters said he is in no rush.
“We’re planning for the long-term interest of the university,” Walters said. “We don’t have to do it today. It’s much more important that we get it right and go slowly and that my folks have a complete understanding.”
Although there have been questions regarding the introduction of firearms, Wyatt said the majority of the feedback has been positive.
The average active shooter scenario is over in 12 minutes and the average police response time is 14 minutes. Walters said one of the purposes of implementing guns is to mitigate the consequences of the time gap, giving safety officers an opportunity to affect the potential outcome.
Arming officers is not the only measure taken to ensure the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors. Wyatt said other measures include a close relationship between public safety staff and local police authorities, and a comprehensive Emergency Management Plan that is systematically reviewed and updated.
“There are multiple options for reporting concerns to Public Safety, such as telephone, email, text and the emergency blue phone system,” Wyatt said.
CBU staff and faculty have been trained for an active-shooter situation, and Wyatt said CBU has a multimedia emergency notification system that includes loudspeakers, email, text and computer pop-up messaging and mobile phone notification.
In the end, Walters said he hopes the introduction of firearms will not impact the interaction officers have with students, faculty and staff.
“We’re not here to be an occupying force,” Walters said. “We’re here to be the same public safety people we have always been.”
Wyatt added that a little more than half of the armed public safety officers will be deployed or ready to be deployed within the week. After necessary training and licensing procedures have been completed, the remainder will be deployed, which Wyatt said will be within 30 to 45 days.