Updated 02/02/2012 11:04 PM
Trustees vote to allow campus police to pack heat
Starting this summer, campus police at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will be allowed to pack heat. The school's board of trustees voted in favor of the measure at a crowded public hearing. Our Berkshire County reporter Brandon Walker was there and has more.
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Despite mixed, if not unfavorable reaction from members of the student body, MCLA's trustee board votes 10 to one in favor of campus police carrying fire arms.
"They have to think about this on a different level and that's hard for us sometimes to really appreciate. I think that they made the right decision," said Dr. Mary Grant, president, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
That decision followed almost a year of public meetings about whether police at MCLA should be armed. Dr. Grant is a member of the trustee board, though a non-voting one.
"There has to be a lot of steps taken to ensure that we have a comfort with the implementation and that we want to check in on this," she said.
The issue first came about following a state-commissioned report in 2008. It concluded campus PD should be ready in the event of an emergency, a prime example being 2007's massacre at Virginia Tech.
"It's hard for us to ignore that recommendation. That's a major factor," said Stephen Crowe, chair, board of trustees.
In fact, not including MCLA's decision, five of nine Massachusetts State Universities have armed campus police officers. All nine of MCLA's officers have gone through police training and will receive more training before they're allowed to carry.
Six of those nine currently have licenses to do so. Still, students aren't so sure.
"It's uncomfortable to know that on campus there could be any chance for someone to be able to use a gun," said Niki Adams, an MCLA student.
The only dissenting vote came from the board's student member, following a student-led survey.
Of roughly 1,700 undergraduate students, 455 voted. Sixty-eight percent of that number against having armed campus police.
"The decision has been made and the best that we can do is move forward," said Jaynelle Bellemore, student member, MCLA board of trustees.
"We need to accept it and hope for the best and the safety," said Brendan Peltier, a member of student government.
The school will now establish a set of policies while police are trained. Training and equipment will cost the school $24,000 this year.
Police will be armed by this summer.