Wilkes University makes decision to arm public safety officers; Officers undergo Act 120 training

Wilkes+University+announced+this+summer+that+it+would+create+a+hybrid+security+force%2C+arming+some+of+its+Public+Safety+Officers.+These+officers+would+now+be+better+suited+to+act+as+first+responders+and+would+also+work+along+with+the+Wilkes-Barre+Police+Department.

Wilkes University announced this summer that it would create a hybrid security force, arming some of its Public Safety Officers. These officers would now be better suited to act as first responders and would also work along with the Wilkes-Barre Police Department.

Wilkes University announced this summer that it would create a hybrid security force, arming some of its Public Safety Officers. These officers would now be better suited to act as first responders and would also work along with the Wilkes-Barre Police Department.

President Patrick F. Leahy said that the decision had been made after conducting two years of study and prioritizing campus issues, with student safety among the highest.

“Soon after I became Wilkes’ sixth president, I identified a number of key issues that would be priorities during my presidency,” Leahy said. “Ensuring the safety of our students was among them and it remains among my highest priorities. This decision will enhance our already safe campus with increased security.”

The arming of public safety officers stemmed from recommendations by Margolis Healy & Associates. The firm is nationally recognized for specializing in college and school security issues. Margolis Healy & Associates was hired in 2012 to review the university’s public safety abilities. Along with a number of recommendations by the firm such as adding dispatchers to the public safety department, increasing officer visibility on campus, using an enhanced security camera system, and hiring a new public safety director, all of which have already been implemented, arming officers was encouraged.

The university held campus meetings with students, faculty and staff to discuss the decision to arm officers and to answer any questions.

The new Director of Public Safety, Christopher Jagoe, who joined in March 2014, agreed with the firm’s recommendation to arm officers. Jagoe came to the university with 20 years experience after being an officer at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD.

The Public Safety Department has five officers who have completed Pennsylvania Act 120 training. These officers, who are veterans in law enforcement, have gained certification to carry firearms while on duty starting this summer. The Act 120 training is composed of more than 700 hours of in-depth training covering all aspects of law enforcement and firearm management. There are plans to have three additional Wilkes public safety officers to undergo Act 120 training during summer 2015.

Although the officers will not have the power to arrest, President Leahy emphasized that Wilkes will continue to work closely with Wilkes-Barre Police Department. Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas Leighton was supportive of the university’s decision.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Wilkes University to make our community safer. We think the addition of highly trained Act 120 officers to its public safety department will complement the city’s and the University’s safety efforts,” Leighton said.

President Leahy commented on the benefits this hybrid force will have on Wilkes. “It will allow our officers to take immediate action, rather than wait for assistance to arrive,” Leahy said. “It also minimizes the likelihood of injury to our officers, allowing for the appropriate use of force to defend themselves and others.”