PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island lawmaker is once again pushing to arm campus police at all of the state’s public colleges.
Rep. William O’Brien reintroduced legislation that would mandate Rhode Island College (RIC) and the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) to arm their officers.
The legislation calls for the training and arming of all public campus police officers statewide.
O’Brien argues that the safety of students, faculty and staff should be paramount.
“In a world of active shooters and terrible tragedies determined by seconds and minutes, it is completely irresponsible for us to fail our students and staff by having to rely on off-campus law enforcement if the worst-case scenario should happen on our public campuses.”
There are only three public universities in the state, one of which already arms its campus police. O’Brien said the University of Rhode Island armed its officers back in 2015.
Both RIC and CCRI do not require their officers to be armed.
O’Brien described the colleges as “outliers,” adding that RIC is one of the only public four-year colleges in the country that don’t arm their campus officers.
“I’ve been told that the response time to RIC if an active shooting situation where to happen is five minutes and frankly, that is way too much time for death and destruction to occur,” O’Brien said. “Although it is utterly disturbing to acknowledge, active shooter situations are not going away in our society, and most often, targets of these vile crimes are schools.
“This is not a political or philosophical argument, but a realization of the troubling times our country currently faces,” he continued.
12 News reached out to both college regarding the legislation, which has failed to gain traction in the General Assembly since it O’Brien first introduced it five years ago.
In a statement, a RIC spokesperson explained that the college hasn’t taken a position on the legislation.
“There are significant issues of funding, training, education and outreach related to this specific legislative proposal that would need to be addressed before we take a position,” the spokesperson said.
On the other hand, a spokesperson for CCRI said the community college’s stance on the bill hasn’t changed since it was reintroduced for the fourth time last year.
“We remain committed to a community policing model, and we recognize that community engagement is essential to a successful community policing model,” the spokesperson explained. “We are proud of the relationship and trust our campus police have built within our college community.”
O’Brien said he has been in talks with administration at both colleges and remains hopeful a resolution will be reached.