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Regents approve armed security at local campus

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Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell can have armed security, the ENMU Board of Regents decided Friday.

The group’s action follows the approval of the ENMU-R Branch Community College Board on Sept. 25 to allow some officers of the seven-person ENMU-R Campus Security Department to carry firearms after appropriate planning, screening and training occurs.

The local board’s vote also authorized initial expenditures of about $272,157 for equipment, licensing, training, increased benefits and pay for armed personnel, and the possible addition of up to two new officers.

Shawn Powell, president of the university, said Tuesday that planning is occurring now on how to make the transition and that the change won’t occur quickly.

Cpt. Brad McFadin, a law enforcement officer for 25 years before joining ENMU-R in January, had explained to the local board that he considered the arming of security a needed step in providing a safe campus environment for students. The action would be part of an overall safety effort that includes improving lighting, video surveillance and landscaping on campus and conducting emergency and active shooter drills for students, faculty and staff.

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He also gave several reasons for why he and others in the department thought that arming some officers was needed. He said that currently personnel cannot detain people, even if they have weapons on campus, which is prohibited by state law. From 2015 to 2017, ENMU-R had one arrest and 11 referrals to law enforcement concerning weapons on its property. He also said that local law enforcement respond as quickly as they can in such situations, but that it can take five or more minutes for them to arrive on campus.

Officers who do not want to carry guns, which requires Level III training, could receive Level II training for the use of non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray, tasers or batons, McFadin added.

Armed security on school campuses is growing more common in the United States in recent years. A July 2019 National Center for Education Statistics report showed that 46.7% of all U.S. public K-12 schools have armed security. In the region, the New Mexico Military Institute has a police force that carries firearms. The main ENMU campus in Portales has some armed law enforcement officers, although the Ruidoso campus does not.

State universities also used armed security.