Push for arming security forces at community colleges

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — There’s a big push at the State Capitol to arm the special security forces at all of the state’s 12 community colleges. The big universities like Yale and UConn have special armed police forces to protect everyone on the campus. But on the state’s sprawling community college campuses, firearms are not allowed, and students and administrators are coming to the conclusion that must change.

We first reported to you in December that the Board of Regents for Higher Education had voted to lift the ban and clear the way for special police forces on all community college campuses. Now, it’s up to state lawmakers. Over 50,000 students attend one of the twelve community colleges in Connecticut. From Gateway in New Haven, to Capital in Hartford, the system is preparing the next generation workforce for the state.

There is a security force at all of the campuses and many of those security officers are certified former municipal police officers. But by policy and law, they are forbidden to carry firearms.

“I know these guys. I trust them and I trust their capability with a firearm,” said student Nathan Margolis of West Hartford.

Because of recent events around the country, most of the community college administrators and their public safety officers feel the time has come.

“To have an armed weapon on campus is necessary these days because, you know, obviously what has been happening over the years,” said Capital Community College Dean Lester Primus.

“It makes me a little bit nervous. We’re in downtown Hartford and we have to address many unusual situations at this campus,” said Master Sgt. J.T. Griffin, who heads the security force at Capital and is a 25-year veteran of the Waterbury Police Department.

Today, the head of the community college system told state lawmakers that students on all the campuses are saying they don’t feel safe and that the cost would be minimal.

“We have to balance the cost of providing the training and the officer with the cost of providing safety to our students,” said Pres. Mark Ojakian of the Connecticut State College & University system.

Ojakian says that armed security on the campuses would have a deterrent effect and would also increase response time should a gun incident happen. He says this is a personally difficult decision for him in his new job.

“I was the Governor’s Chief of Staff during Sandy Hook and I know how the whole landscape of our state changed because of that unthinkable and horrific act,” said Ojakian.

The Special Committee that probed the tragedy at Sandy Hook concluded that it may be impossible to stop a shooting but the quicker the response the less loss of life.

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