Campus debates hiring armed security officer



Campus Safety plans to bring an armed officer to campus as a reaction to the increasing number of gun-related incidents around the country.

Rick Tupper, associate vice president for university services, submitted plans to the president’s office for approval to hire an armed guard on university grounds. Tupper said the plan offers the campus a prompt response in the case of an emergency.

Campus Safety currently works with the Sioux Falls Police Department to establish a plan if an active threat were to arise on campus. A police officer can be on campus in three minutes, but it would take them another 3 to 5 minutes to reach the emergency site, Tupper said.

“When we look historically at active threats, the first five minutes are very critical.,” Tupper said. “My goal is to get [students] an armed officer within the first two minutes and the only way to do that is to have one on campus.”

Although the armed guard would be a Campus Safety officer, the officer would only respond to active gun-related threats.

Tupper said the new officer would not be policing nor enforcing any laws around campus.

“We are not arming someone to go out and enforce laws,” Tupper said. “We are arming someone to protect [students and faculty].”

Currently, Campus Safety officers are certified and trained to carry an expandable baton, pepper spray and handcuffs.

Tupper is considering hiring a retired sergeant from the Phoenix Police Department who has been working for Campus Safety for the past five years.

Training the new guard is the office’s priority for the plan’s implementation.

“I want to make sure that we’re doing it in a very capable and competent way, and that’s going to that our training, policies and procedures are very well vetted and that the person is very well vetted,” Tupper said.

Senior Neeshma Ramdhun believes that the officer should be “very trained and non-violent.”

“They have to be well-trained to assess the situations if they’re going to be in a university with a very diverse set of students,” Ramdhun said. “Guns should be the last thing they should think of when looking for a solution to a problem. So as long as they know that, then it’s okay.”

Philosophy professor David O’Hara agrees.

“If we do hire somebody who is going to be carrying a weapon, then that’s an opportunity for us to have very public and transparent conversation where we give voice to those people who would be most threatened by that,” O’Hara said.

O’Hara added that he would prefer an officer who listens before pulling the trigger.

“I don’t want somebody who enjoys carrying a gun to be carrying a gun on campus. I want somebody who is afraid of carrying a gun and is very reluctant to use it and is very eager to listen,” O’Hara said.

If the proposal is approved by the president, the plan can be put into motion this year.

“I look at what I provide [students] as an insurance policy,” Tupper said. “You really wish you didn’t have to have us, you hope you never have to use us, but if something happens you want to have the best coverage you can have.”


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