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Distributed December 1, 2003
Contact Mark Nickel

Brown University to move ahead with plans to arm its police officers

Brown University has decided to move forward with plans to equip its campus police officers with firearms. The decision will allow the University’s Department of Public Safety to undertake officer training and policy development initiatives that could lead to the issuance of firearms to campus police officers. (Distributed December 1, 2003; see also Questions and Answers.)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Brown University announced today that it will move forward with plans to arm campus police officers, while continuing its other recent efforts to improve security on and near campus. The decision to arm police officers comes after nearly two years of broad-based discussion with students, faculty, staff and members of the Corporation of the University.

“From the outset of these discussions, our goal has been to improve the safety of our campus for the benefit of our students, faculty and staff,” said Brown President Ruth J. Simmons. “I believe that the steps we have already taken and the decision we are announcing today will enhance the security of our campus and create a safer environment for the entire Brown community.”

The decision allows Brown’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) to undertake training, policy development and other initiatives that will prepare the department and its officers for the change to an armed police force. The ultimate decision on the timing for the issuance of firearms will be made upon review of the department’s readiness for arming. DPS preparation will include:

  • intensive training for all campus police officers on use-of-force policies and procedures, decision-making on firearm use in a variety of situations, and the care, retention and storage of firearms;
  • training on a video simulator for use/non-use firearm decisions;
  • substantially increased training in diversity and other issues that are important in a socially and internationally diverse academic community. Officers will receive several times the number of diversity training hours typically provided to municipal police;
  • additional psychological testing and background checks for eligible officers;
  • development of policies for review of all situations in which a firearm is drawn, pointed or discharged;
  • training in use of various non-lethal weapons (taser air guns, for example) and techniques for verbal persuasion;
  • development of a structure for civilian review of officer actions.

The University’s discussions were informed by a comprehensive review of campus security conducted by a consulting group led by William J. Bratton, now chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. The Bratton Group observed that in order to have a significant effect on street crime, Brown police would need the ability to make vehicle stops, to pursue fleeing suspects and to arrest perpetrators who might be armed. None of these functions can be performed safely by police officers who are not armed.

“Ultimately, there were two related questions,” said Simmons. “First, what level of safety and protection does the Brown community need? And second, what level of personal risk can the community reasonably ask its police officers to assume if they are not properly equipped to carry out the full range of actions needed to assure a high level of safety?”

Brown’s Department of Public Safety includes 23 campus police officers and 10 supervising officers, all licensed and sworn, with full powers of arrest. Eight of those officers served as armed police officers at other police departments prior to beginning their work at Brown. The four top-ranking command officers in DPS have had significant experience in supervising armed police officers. The DPS also includes 18 security officers in addition to administrative staff and communications personnel. Security officers will not be armed.

CALEA (the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) extended full accreditation to Brown’s DPS in August 1998, making the department the first in the Ivy League and the third police agency in Rhode Island to earn that distinction. CALEA will conduct a regular on-site inspection at Brown in May 2004 and will examine DPS compliance with national standards in light of the University’s decision to move forward with arming campus police officers.

Since the fall of 2001, Brown has steadily increased its capacity for public safety by:

  • authorizing a 43-percent increase in the number of campus police officers;
  • supplementing that force by hiring additional details of Providence Police;
  • enhancing the visibility of security and police officers on campus, especially during evening and early morning hours;
  • engaging a private security agency to provide supplemental security services near parking lots and other key areas;
  • implementing geo-coded crime reports and incorporating computer mapping into monthly crime reports and analysis.


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