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Why I support the Public Safety Arming Proposal (And why you should, too)

Contributing Writer

Published: Friday, April 15, 2011

Updated: Sunday, April 17, 2011 17:04

   Ever notice how there's almost never someone in the guardhouse in the parking lot?  Ever notice how there's no blue light outside the side entrance to the library or the Crossroads/Coolbeans entrance doors?  Ever notice how Public Safety is unarmed?  I certainly have.  It's one of the first things I took notice of when touring Holy Cross.  According to tour guide and Senator at Large Grant Landry '13, "I find a lot of parents asking me, ‘is Public Safety armed?' and when I have to say ‘no' they are shocked."

   Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months or cramming for Chem (which is more or less the same thing), you've probably heard about the Public Safety Arming Proposal.  This is the proposal to arm the Holy Cross Public Safety Officers with handguns.  Naturally, this is hotly debated amongst the students of Holy Cross.  As a student of Holy Cross, I am in  complete support of the Arming Proposal.  In a statement drafted by fellow Class Senator Rob Columbro '13 and edited, approved, and passed by the SGA Senate, the Senate voiced its opinion that Public Safety should be armed because it "best ensures the safety and well being of the Holy Cross community, including the Public Safety officers who protect and serve the college."

   In light of this opinion statement, many people voiced their opinions to senators across campus.  It often seems as if opponents believe that Holy Cross will become a police state if Public Safety is armed. The case for armed police isn't helped by our friends in the Worcester Police Department, who often act like the Dementors of Azkaban, just sucking the life out of you as soon as you walk anywhere off campus.  Public Safety on the other hand, has demonstrated that they actually care about Holy Cross students.  (I am sure there are Worcester cops, such as Officer Lovely, who care about Holy Cross students, but most of them don't get weekend College Hill duty.)

   Why is there such distrust of an armed police force sworn to protect and defend us?  If you don't trust them with guns, what makes you trust them without guns?  Public Safety is far from a bunch of "mall cops".   As stated in the Proposal to Arm Public Safety (which can be found on everyone's Moodle page), "Twenty one of the current twenty three uniformed members (including 2 part time officers) of Public Safety are sworn Police Officers, and hold the same powers and authorities (excepting the use of firearms) on campus and campus owned properties as any local Police Officer in the cities and towns of Massachusetts."  These officers are licensed to carry guns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, just not on-campus.  If you dial 911 from your cell phone on campus, Worcester police contact Holy Cross Public Safety.  They are the first responders to anything on campus.  They are our police force; here to protect and serve.

   With an increase in Public Safety responses to calls off campus, including a house break-in earlier in the year and an assault on a student on Southbridge Street last fall, not only is it in the Holy Cross Community's interest that they should be armed, but it is also in the interest of the safety of our officers who are dedicated to the Holy Cross community.  They have chosen to work here on the Hill instead of on another police force.  Hopefully in the future, jurisdiction over off-campus housing will be turned over to Holy Cross Public Safety instead of Worcester Police.

   Public Safety should be armed for a number of reasons.  First, in light of the Virginia Tech shooting, arming Public Safety seems a prudent step.  Public Safety is very familiar with the Holy Cross campus and would have a much faster response time to an active shooter situation then the Worcester Police.  Although we are considered a "gated community," our campus is actually almost completely open.  At one of the nine open forums presented by Chief Hart and Dean Peterson, a woman who works at Hogan brought up a concern that "anyone can walk into Hogan and start shooting."  Similarly, our library is open to the public.  Holy Cross plays host to many Consortium and out-of-town groups and conferences which sometimes are completely unrelated to our school.  Many times unknown Worcester residents have to be kicked out of the field house for trespassing.  This is certainly an open campus.

   Second, most recently, and probably most importantly, the assault outside Wheeler demonstrates that we need an armed Public Safety.  Fortunately, the assailant was not armed and the student was okay.  But an armed Public Safety would deter violent crimes from being committed on-campus. What would happen if there were an active shooter situation on campus?  Public Safety would call the Worcester Police and the Massachusetts State Police.  "The average response times from these agencies range from five to fifteen minutes, with full tactical team responses from twenty to forty-five minutes," as stated in the proposal.  Public Safety is only armed with a flashlight and mace.  These are precious minutes.  Public Safety can be anywhere on campus within two minutes.  Public Safety has an intimate knowledge of the campus and would be able to respond much faster than these agencies.

   Arming Public Safety would not make Holy Cross unusual.  Already, campus police at Worcester colleges such as Assumption, Becker, Clark, WPI, and Worcester State are armed.  So are campus police at BC, BU, Lehigh, Lafayette, Bucknell, Fairfield, Xavier, Harvard, MIT, UMASS (all campuses), and Tufts.  Chief Hart makes it his priority to protect the Holy Cross Community.  The Arming Proposal further contains a procedure to ensure that officers are fit to carry handguns.  "No College of the Holy Cross Public Safety Officer will receive a service weapon unless first completing a Psychological Screening by a Licensed Psychologist," the proposal states.  Public Safety officers will also be issued a holster that will prevent someone from grabbing the gun from the officer.  The holster, as stated at one of the presentations, is a three-part mechanism that includes a leather strap, a button that must be pressed, and a third mechanism that was, for obvious reasons, not divulged to those present.  According to Chief Hart, it is hard for someone to unholster the gun unless one is trained properly.

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