Villanova University will add armed police officers starting next fall in response to rising nationwide concerns about campus safety.
The university now has a 75-member public safety department, responsible for patrol, investigations, parking enforcement, residence hall and building security, and crime prevention, but the officers cannot arrest suspects or carry guns or batons, reported Philly.com.
However, under the new arrangement, 19 members of the department - about 20 percent - will become armed police officers who will have completed police academy training, said Philly.com.
Many local colleges, including the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, West Chester, Lincoln, Rutgers-Camden, Rowan, and Pennsylvania State University, already have armed police forces.
Nationally, three quarters of four-year college campuses with 2,500 or more students had armed officers in 2011-12, according to a report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Villanova officials said the changes would improve safety on campus. Now, the university's security officers can't use lights or sirens when responding to emergencies. They can't stop, question, or detain anyone without the individual's permission. They do not have direct radio communication with local police departments, which can hinder emergency communications. And they lack access to local law enforcement databases, which could help in an investigation, said Philly.com.
In addition to academy training, officers will get specialized training in conflict resolution, antibias, and sensitivity issues. Villanova also will set up an "oversight committee" to make sure policies and procedures are followed.