COD Warily Considers Arming Campus Police Other Small Colleges Have Struggled with Decision

By Kutz, Karen | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), December 12, 1999 | Go to article overview
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COD Warily Considers Arming Campus Police Other Small Colleges Have Struggled with Decision


Kutz, Karen, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Karen Kutz Daily Herald Staff Writer

The way campus police at the College of DuPage see it, sworn police officers should carry guns.

But college policy doesn't let the 18 certified officers at College of DuPage, who have taken a sworn oath to lay down their lives to protect the public, carry weapons.

Last week, police at the Glen Ellyn-based community college protested that policy at a board meeting.

Officers said they are concerned that an audit of campus security - which the board reviewed Wednesday behind closed doors- contains no recommendation on arms.

Although trustees didn't publicly address the matter Wednesday, they privately indicated they may reconsider the policy.

Newly elected board Chairman Mary Wuttke Kranz said trustees will ask a consultant hired to conduct an institutional review of College of DuPage to include police security in the study.

"We're all concerned, consider-ing what's happened this year in the schools," said Kranz, a teacher.

Guns are in the schools, she said. "I see it in my elementary school. And just look at Downers Grove North (where a bomb scare took place earlier this fall). Fifteen years ago, I had a kid bring bullets to school for show and tell."

Kranz said trustees signed a contract this week that specifically asks consultant James Fisher of Baltimore and his team to look into campus security.

"This is our society," she said. "It's scary."

* * *

Community colleges across the state have long debated whether their officers should carry guns, as do police at most four-year colleges and universities.

Locally, Harper College in Palatine formed a committee to consider arming their police but put a decision on hold.

Triton College in River Grove is one of the few suburban community colleges that allow police to carry weapons. Triton police Chief Ron Dietz said he wouldn't have it any other way.

"As far as I'm concerned, I don't like to see anyone out there impersonating police," he said. "If you are going to be out there in uniform and in cars that have emblems, you should be doing a policeman's job."

He said putting police in full uniform without guns - the situation at College of DuPage - is tantamount to using fake security cameras.

"It's a false sense of security," he said. "It's a misrepresentation."

Dietz is quick to point out, however, that Triton's River Grove location is more urban. "Since its inception in 1965, we've had shootings, riots, demonstrations and hostage situations. We've had it all at Triton."

College of DuPage has been more fortunate. Considering its size, the school has dealt with very little crime, said spokesman Bill Troller.

But many suburban and rural community colleges are reconsidering the issue.

Out of the 50 Illinois community colleges, 50 percent use fully sworn police officers. Of those, 60 percent are armed, and 40 percent are not.

The other half of the state's community colleges use security guards who call local police in the event of a serious crime.

While College of DuPage uses sworn police officers who have worked for other law enforcement agencies, the squad must rely on the Glen Ellyn police for any situation requiring force.

"Ultimately, it's up to the board to decide if (campus officers) will be treated as police, public safety or security," Dietz said.

In fact, the College of DuPage board has taken up the matter before, said President Michael Mur-phy.

"The situation was reviewed five years ago, and the board elected at that time to leave the issue as it was," he said. "I see it as a community issue, where you have to weigh the benefits against the risks and the consequences."

He said the decision is tough and more complex than the question of whether or not to carry guns.

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