University of Rhode Island campus police will start carrying guns tomorrow, making it the final public university in the nation to arm its officers. The move to arm police came after a false alarm in 2013, when some students in a lecture hall thought they heard someone say they had a gun, setting off a panic on URI's bucolic campus in South Kingstown. While campus police arrived at the scene in less than a minute, it took about five minutes for armed police from South Kingstown to arrive. No gun was ever found. University officials say the change will help campus police do their jobs and ensure safety.
"URI police needed to be prepared to be first responders in any emergency," university President David Dooley says. Not everyone agrees. Some faculty members believe guns are unnecessary and will only cause problems on a rural campus with little crime, says the executive director of the URI chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the faculty union. "The worst crime that's ever done here is people smoke marijuana," says Frank Annunziato, adding that the union would be vigilant in how the policy plays out. Officers are required to undergo weapons training, a background check, and a psychological examination. All but two of the department's 28 officers will be armed, either because they did not pass one of the required trainings or screenings or because they chose not to.