To arm or not to arm? That’s the question that many university and college police departments have to answer. Is it safer to have police officers patrolling a college with handguns or without them? Police officers at John Carroll University in Ohio have been doing their jobs sans weapons, but beginning in 2013, things are going to be a little different–officers will be wearing pistols on their belts.

The university’s Director of Campus Safety Services, Timothy Peppard, has recommended that all officers begin carrying weapons and has met very little resistance from administrators, faculty, students or trustees. While Peppard is in charge of the college’s police department, the final decision will be made by JCU President Rev. Robert Neihoff.

Peppard told the Dayton Daily News that “the primary value is the capacity to be a first responder. We are not doing this because we have concerns for crime in the area.” He continued, “And we have a fabulous relationship with University Heights (police).”

The justification, Peppard said, was to ensure that if something were to occur on campus police officers would be able to respond appropriately and quickly. If officers were unarmed, they would have to return to the station to get their weapons, which could slow the response time and potentially allow a situation to escalate. This is something Peppard knows from experience.

According to the Dayton Daily News, “He was chief of the University Circle police department in 2003 when two of his armed officers entered the Peter B. Lewis Building on the campus of Case Western Reserve University and confronted Biswanath Halder, who had killed one person and injured two others.

“A review of the incident concluded that when Halder was confronted by the officers he went on the defensive, instead of the offensive, saving lives”, Peppard said. “No one was killed between the time the police arrived and a seven-hour standoff that ended with the gunman’s arrest.”

Marietta College Police Chief agrees that armed campus police are more effective in saving lives. “Almost any time a shooter encounters police they stop killing people. They either engage an officer or kill themselves.”

The Police Officers Association of Michigan has several university police departments, including those at Eastern Michigan University and Central Michigan University, as member groups and we want to know what you think about this. Do you think it is safe for university police departments to patrol their campuses unarmed or is it always better to be armed in case of emergency.

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