- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education moved closer Thursday toward allowing armed security on all state community college campuses, with proponents acknowledging “the world is a different place.”

On a voice vote, the board approved a resolution that changes the board’s policy barring weapons on campus, with the exception of Naugatuck Community College. The General Assembly is now expected to take up a bill during next year’s regular legislative session that would allow armed, “special police forces” to patrol the state’s 12 community college campuses.

Ultimately each college would decide whether it wants armed police on its campus. Currently, the type of security personnel varies by school.

“I’m very confident that this one of the many things that we need to do,” said Manchester Community College President Gena Glickman. “The world is a different place than it was.”

The police forces would be similar to those on the four state university campuses and at the University of Connecticut. Besides being certified in Police Officers Standard Training, or POST, the officers would receive special training in community policing on a college campus and train with the nearest state university force.

“We recognize that colleges are different. They’re not like municipalities,” said Board of Regents member Merle Harris, chairman of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee. Harris said more than half of the community colleges in the nation have armed police forces.

The move to allow armed security on Connecticut’s campuses comes amid a spate of mass shootings, including at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Oct. 1, and one day after 14 people were shot dead in California.

The state hired a consulting firm to assess each of the campuses. The firm determined that campus security would be enhanced by armed officers who are POST-certified and that the current policy, which prohibits weapons on community college campuses except for Naugatuck, would have to be changed.

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and University System, said having armed officers will make students and faculty feel safer, while improving the school’s response to a potential armed shooter.

“We saw that there are mass shootings going on in this country. And we need to be better prepared to deal with those situations,” said Ojakian, who was Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s chief of staff during the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. He said the move to change the weapons policy is part of an overall effort to look at campus safety, as well as mental health services available at the community colleges.

He said the ultimate goal is to have consistency across the whole system, with adequate numbers of police who have adequate training. With the special police force designation, officers at each campus would be legally protected from lawsuits and departments could be eligible for emergency personnel vehicles.

Ojakian, who has been visiting each campus, said he’s heard from students who support having armed security. He said he hopes, after meeting with each community college president, that each school will ultimately agree to one model of armed security.

“This is something students want,” he said. “They want to feel safer on their campus.”

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