By Christopher Jacobsen
After careful consideration, and in attempt provide a safer environment for their students and faculty, Northampton Community College has decided to update their use of force policy on all campuses.
During the September meeting, the NCC Board of Trustees, under consultation, chose to add an armed guard to the use of force policy.
In an interview with Sedgwick Harris and Mark Culp, they discussed about the advantages, training and selection process and implementation of having an armed guard on campus.
“This wasn’t an easy decision, and it wasn’t a decision made haphazardly or without a lot of thought and consideration,” said Sedgwick Harris, Vice President of Student Affairs & Enrollment.
The general concern, considered by the Board of Trustees, was the safety of the students and faculty members, and to prevent any incidents or to have a faster response time by having an armed guard on campus.
It is known that there have been multiple school shootings in recent times, one of those including the Florida school shooting which encouraged the surviving students to protest for stricter gun laws.
This decision, however, was not just made in response to those occurrences, but as a strategic move to prevent situations.
“It’s been a two year discussion and I think we, as an institution, needed that time to make the best possible decision for our campus,” said Harris.
One of the many advantages having an armed officer on campus would be their quick response ability, compared to that of a police force.
“The research that we’ve done shows that our officers can get to a potential situation faster than our supporting police force,” said Mark Culp, Director of Facilities and Public Safety.
The current response time for the supporting police forces that secure our campus is around ten minutes, while on campus security can respond in five and under.
But is the NCC student body ready, or comfortable, with the idea of having an armed guard on campus?
“We know that this is a change for our campus, but I think, overall, the comments and inputs that we’ve gotten is “we want our campus to be safe”,” said Harris,
NCC had held open sessions and forums for the student body to discuss how they felt on the topic of having an armed guard on campus and Harris said, “we’ve had several students engaged in the open forums, sharing their concerns and I think, through the process of implementation, there’s going to be a mindful consideration in thoughtfulness for students, staff and faculty.”
With the idea of safety versus the comfort level comes to mind, “I think when you rate comfort level versus safety, people will put safety first,” and “I think when people think about the safety of our campus is solely as a change, but it’s nothing different than the armed security at Dorney Park, at our malls, or at many other locations,” said Harris.
As a student, the idea of having an armed guard on campus does bring comfort to mind, considering current events that happen nationwide, but also we should be use to the idea since we’ve grown accustomed to having police officers in our daily lives.
The possibility of having a meet and greet with the new officer, once they are hired and properly implemented into school life, is in thought as Culp said, “there’ll be several opportunities for the faculty, staff and students to interact with the new officer.”
Culp said that during the selection process the school will be sure to look over the psychological testing ensuring that all officers fit in with our school properly as well as screen for any bias or profiling to make sure that the individual is right for the job and our campus.
The plan is to implement an armed officer on all campus locations by the spring semester and to slowly transition them into the student body lifestyle with the main focus being on student engagement.
“They, the students, will be heavily engaged in the implementation, we’ll be talking to them, we’ll be using the leadership from our senates, both a Monroe and Bethlehem, just to make sure that students are engaged in this process because with them we will miss something and we need to see it from their seats, as a student, to make sure that you have heavily engaged in the safety level on all of our campuses,” Harris said.
As NCC prepares to start our transition to implementing the new use of force policy, Harris assured that the decision was not made haphazardly and was made with all consideration to the students, faculty and staffs well being.