BY TYLER TELESCO
Legislation that could establish fully-armed and trained police forces at Connecticut community colleges is in review by the state senate as of March 9.
The legislation was approved by the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education in December 2015, and serves as an amendment to the current bill that governs the use of certified police officers on each of the five state college campuses. The amendment would add language to the original bill that allows for similar police forces to be established at the state’s 12 community colleges, according to central Connecticut newspaper Record-Journal.
The decision to actually implement police forces, however, would be left up to the colleges themselves, according to a clause in the bill. Quinebaug Valley Community College president Carlee Drummer has reinforced that claim in an article published by The Norwich Bulletin.
“It leaves the final decision to the individual colleges,” Drummer said. “It’s not a mandate.”
It is unclear whether the college will implement police forces on its campus, should the bill pass. President David Levinson said that he believes the bill is “a good option,” although he was “undecided as to how [the college] would proceed” if it passes.
“I’ve been very pleased with our security force,” Levinson said. “Before we were to do something like this, I’d want to get the feedback on the part of students, staff, and faculty.”
Levinson said that cost is also a complicating factor in the decision. This concern is echoed by state representative, Roberta Willis, who told the Record-Journal that the legislation would be taking valuable resources and “shifting them someplace else” if it passes. The costs of new services may be of particular concern with the budget cuts Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed in early February, which included cutting the Connecticut State College and Universities (CSCU) budget by $20 million.
Other concerns arise from the idea of having police on campus. Lucy Wainwright, a 20-year-old General Studies major, believes the bill “wouldn’t do any good” and would “stir more trouble.”
“It would be almost like an instigation for those who enjoy acting out,” she said. “I feel like it would be kind of detrimental to the campus, because it is an open campus… And so far we haven’t had any problems.”
Another student, however, saw the prospect of armed police officers on campus as a necessity. Ralph Lucci, an 18-year-old General Studies major, said he believes that an assailant could “bring a gun and start shooting people” at any given moment.
“I’d feel safer with cops around here,” Lucci said. “That’s how it [already] should be.”
Other students said they do not feel particularly vulnerable at the college, but would not take issue with a police unit on campus, such as Peter Sahuski, a 19-year-old Computer Science major.
“I’ve never really felt unsafe at this school, so it wouldn’t really make too much of a difference,” Sahuski said. “But I guess that the extra step toward safety could never hurt.”
According to the college’s 2015 Annual Security Report, there have only been three criminal offenses in the past four years on campus. Levinson acknowledged that although the college has a very safe campus, the staff will continue to take measures to improve safety, whether that involves police or not.
“I think the saying ‘if you see something, say something,’ and the importance of having the community vigilant about safety is critical,” said Levinson. “I think police forces can be helpful, but I think safety really needs to be everyone’s concern.”
Rose Ellis, dean of Administration and head of Security, declined to comment. Assistant Director of Safety and Security, Robert Studivant, could not be reached. Therefore, this article does not include comments from the security.