Action also gives initial approval for $272,000 in costs
A request by the head of the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell Campus Security to allow some officers to carry firearms in the future has received a local vote of approval and is headed to the ENMU Board of Regents for a final decision.
The ENMU-R Community College Board voted unanimously, 5-0, during its Wednesday afternoon meeting to approve the request to allow some officers to be armed after proper training and screening.
“As you recall, part of enhancing student success is to enhance security,” said Brad McFadin. “We’ve improved our lighting and our video surveillance to improve what we already have on campus. … Becoming armed is just another option and tool to that, to enhance our student success.”
McFadin also explained that Campus Security holds emergency drills for students and faculty as part of its campus safety efforts.
“We feel — I feel — this is a necessary thing with all the things that have been going on,” he said.
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He referred not only to a high number of U.S. mass shootings, but the fact that ENMU-R security officers have encountered people with firearms and other dangerous weapons on the campus in recent years.
According to ENMU-R campus security statistics, one arrest and 11 referrals to law enforcement agencies occurred from 2015 to 2017 following incidents on campus or in college buildings. By state law, firearms are prohibited at New Mexico universities by students, employees or visitors.
Security officers can respond at the current time by talking with the people or calling the Roswell Police Department or Chaves County Sheriff’s Office for assistance. Unarmed officers have no ability to detain people or use any type of force.
While he said that Roswell Police and Sheriff’s deputies always respond to calls, they can take several minutes to arrive. Quickness of response during shooting incidents is often a key factor in preventing or reducing injuries or deaths.
“If they (law enforcement) are further in town, north of Brasher, north of Poe Street, even running quickly, it will take them some time (to get here),” he said, adding that it could take even longer for them to find the right campus building or location.
A former law enforcement officer for 25 years, McFadin told Community College Board members that maybe four to six security officers could be armed at some point in the future. He said those officers who did not want to carry firearms, which requires Level III training, could receive Level II training, which teaches them how to use non-lethal devices such as batons, tasers or pepper spray.
The board’s decision also entailed approval of what are anticipated to be the initial costs associated with the transition, $272,157. That includes $18,831 for equipment, $20,520 for training and $232,806 for the increased pay and benefits associated with higher-level positions or up to two new officers. Recurring costs are estimated at $7,000 a year.
The vote follows three campus meetings held in August and September with 55 people in attendance, including 10 students.
McFadin characterized those meetings as “overwhelmingly positive.” Notes provided by ENMU-R summarizing meeting comments indicate that some people did worry that armed security could result in more weapons being brought to campus or that officers might react emotionally if armed. But others, including students, said they supported the change.
If ENMU-R Campus Security does have armed services, it would join other schools in the area. The New Mexico Military Institute operates a full-fledged police force. The main ENMU campus in Portales has some armed officers. All state universities have at least some armed security personnel.
Board members asked about the Level III training required, which McFadin indicated would include de-escalation training and would require officers to undergo psychological screenings. He also said that current employment screening is stringent, but would be enhanced for officers carrying weapons. The only time officers could use their firearms is when they encountered someone using or threatening to use deadly force, he explained.
After the vote, McFadin said a decision has not been made about when training would occur or officers would begin carrying weapons, but he said it would take some time.
The ENMU Board of Regents is scheduled to consider the matter Friday during a 9:30 a.m. meeting on the Portales campus.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or at email@example.com.