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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Sep. 7, 2007

Divided forum audience discusses arming ISU police officers

by Anne Krapfl

Call them divided. The 70 employees and students who attended a campus forum Aug. 31 didn't agree on whether ISU police officers should be allowed to carry handguns. Some argued that the campus is safe and allowing guns on campus jeopardizes that. Senior Bradley Anderson called the recommendation a "knee-jerk reaction to Virginia Tech."

But others, including department of public safety director Jerry Stewart, said it's time for a change. Stewart and his peers at the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa, as well as the vice presidents for business at the state's three regent universities, are the authors of a proposal to arm the "sworn and certified police officers" on the three campuses. Their recommendation went to the three university presidents in late July, who in turn need to forward their recommendations to the Board of Regents by Sept. 18. President Gregory Geoffroy has requested comments from the university community by Sept. 11. Comments may be e-mailed.

At Iowa State, a change in policy would arm the 31 officers in the police division, Stewart said. It wouldn't affect student employees or parking division officers.

Stewart said part of the rationale for the change is about providing a timely response to calls. When an ISU officer anticipates a dangerous situation, he or she now either drives to a location on campus to retrieve a gun or waits for assistance from Ames or Story County law enforcement.

Stewart also noted that regent university police officers are the only certified law enforcement officers in the state who aren't armed. Weigh station officers and capitol security officers are armed, for example.

In terms of population, Iowa State is one of the top 10 "cities" in the state, said vice president for business and finance Warren Madden.

"Ames is a safe environment," he said, "but at times we have all the problems of society."

He noted that many Iowa communities have lower crime rates than campus, yet people expect officers in those places to be armed.

P&S employee Lynne Mumm of IPRT Company Assistance put it another way. "We're putting our staff members in harm's way every day. This is the 21st century," she said, arguing that it's time to give university officers tools to protect themselves and others on the job.

Editor's note

A second campus forum to discuss the arming proposal, hosted by the Government of the Student Body, was held Sept. 5 as Inside went to press. We were unable to include coverage in this issue. The first forum was sponsored by the P&S Council.