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Improving Public Safety's Ability to Respond

Posted 05/06/2014
Posted by David Isgur

The following message was to the University community from Vice President of Finance and Administration Arosha Jayawickrema

Dear Members of the University Community:

After many months of study and thoughtful discussions, the University is implementing a series of actions aimed at preparing us to respond to the growing number of incidents involving weapons at schools, colleges, and university campuses around the country. As part of this effort, the University has made a decision to have both armed and unarmed officers in the Department of Public Safety. We consider the safety and security of our community and Public Safety officers one of the University’s top priorities, a prerequisite to the vibrant learning environment we have long enjoyed, and having an armed component within the department further enhances the existing safety measures that are in place.

The University engaged in fall 2013 the services of Margolis Healy and Associates, a Vermont-based firm that specializes in campus safety, security, and regulatory compliance, to study the current expectations of the community during emergencies and assess our readiness for this transition. They held meetings with representatives of the Faculty Senate, the Staff Association, Student Affairs, and Student Government Association. Based on the conversations they had, they reported that our campus community calls on Public Safety officers during emergencies and expects them to respond and act rather than observe and report the situation to an off-campus police department. The Margolis Healy report makes a final recommendation that "the Department of Public Safety be adequately positioned to respond to the full range of issues it may be called upon to manage."

The recent events at schools around our state and our nation mean we must face the reality that campus public safety officers function in an environment where potential danger is not readily apparent and can rapidly unfold. We must provide our Public Safety officers the training and commensurate tools that will enhance the safety of students, faculty, and staff. We will adhere to the highest standards and best practices in the industry in choosing, and then training, the armed Public Safety officers in the use of firearms and the use of force. There will be regularly scheduled, continuing training for all armed officers, even more than what is required by the state for a public safety department and will be equal to the standards followed by law enforcement.

I want to emphasize that we have not had a serious, life-threatening incident on campus that is prompting this move. We think this is an opportunity to prepare for incidents rather than react in the future with regret that we did not act sooner. Knowing what to do in an emergency is important knowledge for all of us to have. This winter, the Department of Public Safety began conducting a series of training sessions on how to prepare and then respond to workplace violence and active shooter incidents. We plan to expand these training opportunities by offering them online this coming fall. Everyone—students, faculty, and staff alike—should plan to attend these sessions in person or online to learn more about how to plan and respond to threats on campus.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at


Arosha Jayawickrema
Vice President of Finance and Administration