Campus security to add firearms, Tasers to arsenal

Becky Husky

Campus security officers will now be armed with more than just mace as they are promoted to the rank of campus police officers.

On March 21, the proposal initiating this change was passed by the Board of Governors. Ken Kennedy, director of public safety, is currently the only police officer on board.

He has no immediate plans to expand his department, but hopes to hire a supervisor for the evening shift. Until then, he would like to commission the officers he already has.

“Each person who’s added as a police officer will have to go through a stringent testing process and then be agreed upon by several people in the administration and then be placed on as a police officer,” Kennedy said. “I have about five people who could potentially be commissioned if they meet all the proper requirements.”

The new police officers will have different uniforms and carry firearms and Tasers.

“I’m a really big proponent of Tasers,” Kennedy said. “They’re a big officer safety tool. Officer injuries have gone down greatly with departments that have gotten Tasers because you just don’t have to wrestle with people anymore.”

Officers will also have the jurisdiction to take complaints, make arrests, investigate crime, and “keep the peace,” Kennedy said. But, the change doesn’t stop there.

“We’re going to have to rework our policies and procedures,” Kennedy said. “We’re going to have to update our emergency plans and put them on a Web-based server so that other agencies can go look at them.”

According to Kennedy, his department will also be working mutual aid agreements with Jasper County.

“So that if we have a problem, they can come help us and if they have a problem, we can come and help them,” he said. “So, mutually beneficial agreements.”

Furthermore, the proposal passed by the Board of Governors also contains three other components not yet voted upon.

“I guess because of the fact we’ve had so many school shootings, the Board of Governors decided they wanted to go ahead and act on this one first to make sure we had people on campus with weapons who, if we were to have an active shooter, were able to respond to it,” Kennedy said.

The additional components include a behavior intervention team to monitor disruptive behavior, mandatory life-safety training for faculty and staff, and expanding health services to include a mental health clinic.

“We’ll see what the Board of Governors decides on all those,” Kennedy said.

As for the change to campus police officers, Kennedy thinks it will be supported.

“I think that by and large, people will feel more secure knowing that we have armed officers here,” Kennedy said.

Cassie Armstrong, sophomore music education major, agrees.

“I have only been at Southern for a couple semesters, but anytime I have needed to work with campus security, it was very pleasant,” she said. “I have been pleased so far and hope that in this switch over the campus remains the safe, educational atmosphere I have come to know it as.”