Arrest powers, weapons considered for Public Safety

Arrest powers, weapons considered for Public Safety

David Lee

The recent assessment by Margolis, Healy and Associates suggested creating a hybrid force of Public Safety officers with weapons, such as tasers and firearms, and investigative and self defense training to accompany police officer training. The decision on whether to become armed is being considered by President Patrick Leahy.

Christine Lee, News Editor

The administration is considering the issue of whether the office of Public Safety should possess weapons and have powers of arrest.

As part of the recent assessment the office has undergone over the past year, one of the recommendations made by the firm Margolis, Healy and Associates was to have a hybrid force of both armed and unarmed officers.

Public Safety Manager Jerry Rebo said becoming armed and having powers of arrest means part of the staff would be Act 120-certified, meaning they would be trained to be police officers and the rest of the staff would be Act 235-certified, meaning they are authorized to carry weapons such as mace.

Rebo noted there are five Public Safety officers who are Act 120-certified, but he said all of the Public Safety officers’ training would not discontinue under the new rules.

“All of them would be highly trained and their training would not just stop because they have Act 120 training, they will continue to do training while they’re here at Wilkes,” Rebo said.

Rebo said all officers would receive investigatory and weapons training. They would also continue to be trained on self-defense and carry firearms and tasers.

However, Vice President of Finance and General Counsel Loren Prescott said the decision for Public Safety officers to carry weapons and have powers of arrest is one that President Patrick Leahy is obligated to make. Prescott said that decision is being made based on the on-campus forums with faculty, staff, students, the cabinet and the Board of Trustees.

“With all of that information, the president will make a decision,” Prescott said. “It’s also based on the recommendation we’ve received from Margolis, Healy and Associates. They have recommended a so-called hybrid force, which is a combination of officers who have sworn powers and are armed, (and) also officers who have public safety officer training but are not armed and sworn.”

Prescott said there have been discussions within his cabinet on the issue of Public Safety possessing weapons and having powers of arrest, similar to the forums held with the rest of the campus community.

Rebo explained that having these certifications will mean officers will have the power to arrest and take people into custody on-site for incidents such as the one that occurred Nov. 4 when a female undergraduate student was robbed of her cell phone around 8:59 p.m. in front of the University Center on Main Street parking garage.

They would also be able to fill out all legal paperwork, keep a person in a holding cell and take suspects to the magistrate’s office to be arranged.

“If an incident happened on campus from a minor violation like underage drinking to an assault, rape, they would have the power to arrest right there on-spot and take people into custody,” Rebo said.