BCC hosts public forum on arming officers

A public hearing was held Monday at the BCC's Rykebusch Faculty and Staff Lounge to discuss the possibility of arming campus police officers who work at the college.

With about 10,000 students on campus, the Dartmouth chief of police says trying to protect all students at Bristol Community College is like trying to protect a small city.

And with 'active shooter' scenarios playing out at malls and college campuses throughout the country, those in charge of keeping BCC safe say that job is no easy one.

Top officials and the BCC Police Department and some school administrators are looking to add a firearm to the officers' gear.

Chief Wayne Wood explained, "Well, It's scary to be in total uniform; we carry the mace, we carry the baton, we carry the cuffs and you know you're acting as a police officer."

On Bristol Community College, and several other public colleges across Massachusetts, campus police officers are not currently working with what they consider to be a "full uniform."

Chief Wood said, "My whole department is 100 percent for carrying."

"You know, they're police officers, they've been to the academy, and they're trained. They want to do to do the job, and they want to do it 100 percent."

"I'm supportive of arming our campus police. I oversee the public safety and campus police department here at Bristol Community College. That's how I feel because they're officers, I believe like you heard from several people who stood up and spoke this evening, that police officers should have the tools to do the job, and I believe that includes firearms," said Steve Kenyon is the Vice President for Administration and Finance at BCC.

But some nearby residents don't agree. "It's peaceful, it's a peaceful area. I walk my dog here, and the presence of guns would (make it) no longer be peaceful for me. Quite honestly, once it happens, and I do believe it will happen, I'm sure I'll get over it, just like you'll get over everything that changes. But the idea of having the officers carrying guns, I do not like, no," said BCC neighbor Polly Feitelberg.

But some students told NBC 10 they feel unsafe without armed cops on the BCC campus every single day.

BCC student Robert Chase said, "I was talking to a fellow classmate of mine, and we realized, that if I were in that classroom, behind locked doors when someone started shooting, I wasn't going to be able to depend upon my professors to defend me, I wanted to have somebody armed and ready, willing, and able to get between me and some guy with a gun."

From here the matter will go to a sub-committee that plans to meet on Tuesday.

Once the sub-committee reaches a conclusion, it will report its findings to the BCC Board of Trustees, and the BCC Board of Trustees will eventually vote once and for all as to whether to arm or not to arm, Bristol Community College police officers.

BCC administrator Steve Kenyon says if the measure is eventually approved, it would likely take between five to six months to get each officer properly trained and screened to carry.

"We will also require them to undergo firearms training and psychological evaluations before we would arm them," he said