Greenfield Community College considers arming full-time police officers

Last modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014
GREENFIELD — To better address the threat posed by a gunman on campus, Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura wants to arm the school’s three full-time police officers.

The proposal depends on approval by the GCC board of trustees and it will likely come up for a vote at its Feb. 12 meeting. College officials are concerned that it would take too long for local or state police to respond if a shooter arrives on campus.

“I’m not fond of guns,” said Pura. “I’ve always been opposed to arming our campus because ... this is a safe campus.

“It really does come down to the critical minutes between when the shooter ... starts and when that person is stopped,” he said.

Bill Mayrose, the college’s chief of police, said that he and two other licensed police officers would complete between 40 and 60 hours of training before they could carry firearms. The process would include psychological testing, training in use of deadly force policies, a practice of defensive tactics and qualification on a shooting range.

The proposed firearm policy would only apply to full-time officers, who are GCC employees. Two reserve GCC police officers and contracted security guards from Hunter North Associates will not carry weapons.

Mayrose has advocated for arming full-time officers ever since he arrived on campus in 2006.

“I believe that if you’re a police officer, you need all of the tools of the trade regardless of where you work, and I’ve always felt that way,” he said. “Our job is to serve and protect. Without a firearm, I can serve and sometimes protect.”

That was a concern to Pura and other school officials who felt this might be the only real hole in GCC’s emergency preparation. It could take minutes for local or state police to arrive on campus in response to a call, and even then they might have difficulty navigating the college’s confusing building structure.

Pura pointed to a school shooting last month at Arapahoe High School in Colorado — where an on-campus police officer was able to respond to the incident less than 90 seconds after shooting began. One girl died as a result of that shooting.

And Mayrose added that if campus police are the first to respond to an incident, they may know the individual and be able to end the crisis without having to take the shooter’s life.

Pura has spent the past few weeks presenting the proposal to the campus community. He’s heard from people who are not happy with bringing guns on campus but understand why it needs to be done.

GCC Student Senate President Kia Burton McLaughlin said that, until recently, she had thought that police already carried firearms.

A shooting “can happen anywhere,” she said. “Hopefully it doesn’t happen, but it doesn’t hurt to always be prepared.”

She said she has yet to hear of any student groups who are actively against the proposal.

Katy Abel, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Higher Education, said that most state universities and UMass campuses have armed police officers. It’s more of a mixed bag at the community college level, she said.