KINGSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The University of Rhode Island has voted to arm its campus police officers.
The issue came up for debate after a gun scare on campus in 2013 at the Chafee Social Science Center.
During the incident, campus police had to wait for South Kingstown police to arrive before going inside the building.
After several forums and discussions on the issue, President David Dooley announced, “To ensure a timely and effective response, University police officers must function as our first responders and therefore must be equipped to carry out this responsibility…. To do anything less could put members of the URI community, including the men and women of the University’s police department, at risk.”
But a union representing faculty members believes it’s unnecessary.
Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology Judy Van Wyk told Eyewitness News, “We don’t have a crime problem at URI. We’ve never had a serious incident on campus that would merit something like taking this kind of action. We as a state and institution can’t afford this.
The move will cost the university $150,000 up front, plus an additional $23,000 every year after that.
But some students suggest using that money for other solutions, like counseling and mental health services.
Raquel Mendez told Eyewitness News, “If we’re ready to put money into arming the police, why aren’t we putting money into certain centers and resources on campus that don’t get enough promotion.”
The union wants the University to reveal a “use of force” set of guidelines.
URI will unveil its plan in June and officials believe it will be fully in place by the start of the Spring 2015 semester.
Eyewitness News has learned that campus police will have to undergo a two week firearms training course.