The University of Rochester patrols at the medical center soon will be armed, President Joel Seligman announced Thursday.
The move follows the recommendation of a security commission studying the issue for several months, Seligman said. Thirty-eight Department of Public Safety officers have been authorized to carry weapons to address safety concerns, particularly in the emergency department.
Seligman cited data showing higher incidents of crime reported at the medical center as support for the decision for the armed officers there.
From 2013 to 2015 there were an average 230 knives, eight guns and 33 other weapons confiscated each year in the medical center, he noted. In contrast, on all other university campuses combined, an average of nine knives, one gun and seven other weapons were confiscated.
Seligman said he also supports the arming of the four senior officers of the Department of Public Safety: the chief, deputy chief, patrol commander and commander of investigations, who could be the first responders on the scene of an emergency anywhere on campus, including the Eastman School of Music.
“While our campuses generally are quite safe, there have been isolated incidents such as the kidnapping of two of our undergraduates last December that cannot be ignored,” Seligman said in a letter to the university campus. “It is clear from exercises with other law enforcement departments that our officers will be able to respond more rapidly in an emergency than those in the Rochester Police Department or other law enforcement agencies.
“In an emergency, rapid response by Public Safety officers is critically important.”
No Department of Public Safety officers would be armed before undergoing rigorous psychological screening and training, Seligman said, including training in bias and diversity.
Seligman also announced the creation of a Public Safety Review Board to be headed by Francis Prince, a member of the university Board of Trustees. The Review Board periodically will review training and gun safety measures; any instances of an officer’s use of a weapon; and complaints of racial bias.
The Review Board reports directly to the president and Seligman expects the members to be in place by Nov. 1.
Seligman stressed his decision to arm officers follows months of consideration of campus input through four town hall meetings and more than 160 e-mails.
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