BCC board votes to arm campus officers

David Melo joined the Bristol Community College Police Department about a year ago.

Before that he served with two other departments.

Melo said he was armed at those posts and said he's glad he'll soon be armed while serving on campus.

"I think police officers should have been armed from the very beginning," he said.

On Monday night, the school's Board of Trustees agreed with Melo and voted to arm campus officers.

"That makes me feel fine. I'm fine with that," said student Ashlyn Lavoie.

"I'm fine too," said student Nicole Vickery.

BCC isn't alone. Other community colleges in the state arm their officers, and officers are armed at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus.

However, it's a much different situation from colleges in Rhode Island. The state just made it legal to arm campus police this year.

Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island have said they will not arm campus police officers. The University of Rhode Island is still discussing the issue.

But it's a growing discussion.

BCC officials discussed the issue for about a year. The college held forums and surveys.

Vice President of Students Steven Ozug said about 80 percent of the response was in favor of the move. Many people were on the fence for a while.

"I will be honest, I wasn't always in favor of this. Probably most of my tenure at the college it was not something I was in favor of. But I've changed my opinion over the years as many people have," Ozug said.

While campus police will be allowed to carry a firearm, it's still illegal in Massachusetts for anyone else to bring a gun on campus.

Before getting their guns, campus officers will have to pass a psychological exam and complete 40 hours of training with Fall River police.

"We attend police academies and the skills necessary to handle these types of situations. But without a firearm, we may not be able to handle these lethal situations that arise," Melo said.

The school says officers should be armed by the end of the spring semester.