The University of Rhode Island is arming its police force as of Friday. Preparations have been underway for a little more than a year. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison has details.
A gun scare in 2013 led to the decision last year to arm police on URI's rural Kingston campus. Though it turned out there wasn’t any gun, the false alarm pointed out the drawbacks of unarmed officers, who had to wait for armed police to respond to the incident.
URI President David Dooley says campus police have received special training to carry firearms and will continue to focus on community policing.
"They've been deeply involved in not just fire arms training, but in looking at community policing best practices, nonviolent ways to diffuse situations, in training to recognize signs of mental illness," Dooley said.
University officials believe URI was the only large state university in the country without an armed police force, prior to this week.
It took several months longer than expected to complete the process of preparing both police and the campus for an armed police force. Officers were supposed to begin carrying firearms at the start of the Spring semester, but will instead be armed just as students leave for the summer.
URI officials say they felt it was important to take whatever time was needed to complete training, background checks and other preparations.
" We think it's actually a good step," said Dooley. "Our officers will now be fully participating alongside officers from South Kingstown, Narragansett and a host of other local communities in providing safety and security for our commencement."
Critics of arming of campus police say URI is already safe and guns only increase the risk of violence. URI estimates it cost about $170,000 to arm its police force.