Concealed Carry Policy Considerations for Campus Police
Are your college’s campus police officers ready for concealed carry policies to be implemented on your campus?
As the list of states that have campus carry laws grows, more college officials are being faced with the task of developing and implementing concealed carry policies. Campus public safety departments should no doubt play a primary role in those policy discussions, and campus police need to be prepared to be on the front lines of enforcing whatever concealed carry policy their institution comes up with.
Earlier this year, the National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS) held a forum that brought together public safety executives, federal officials and subject-matter experts on concealed carry to develop the report Policy Development and Implementation of Legislation Permitting the Carrying of Concealed Handguns on College and University Campuses: Promising Practices.
The insights gleaned from that forum provided the basis for the information in this article.
Training Campus Police for Concealed Carry
Campus police officers should conduct joint training relating to the concealed carry policy with area law enforcement agencies. Consistency in the response of different law enforcement agencies to concealed carry calls is crucial, especially early on when the campus community may be more anxious about the new policy and unsure of exact concealment requirements (both of which will lead to more calls).
The training can also serve to educate area law enforcement agencies on the intricacies of the campus carry policy (i.e. gun exclusion zones and training requirements for students, faculty and staff) and the campus culture relating to guns.
The training should address protocols for officers responding to concealed handgun calls and complaints, including in use-of-force situations, which we discuss below. The potential presence of handguns on campus when law enforcement officials are responding to calls means officers need to be even more aware and sensitive to the situations they’re responding to. Additional training is the best way to accomplish that.
The training should also prepare officers for situations where a person is carrying a gun in violation of the policy but is claiming they are practicing their Second Amendment rights. An important part of that response will involve educating such individuals on campus concealed carry policies. The degree of leniency granted to such individuals will vary from campus to campus (i.e. will there be a no tolerance protocol in place or will campus officials handle such incidents as “teaching moments” and let violators off with a warning?).
Additionally, officers should be educated and trained on mental health issues and receive Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). Some colleges and universities have existing mental health training programs that could be used in the event of campus carry implementation.
Exercises and Drills Relating to Campus Carry
Joint exercises that include active shooter drills are essential to this training. Such exercises can prepare local and campus police to respond to active killer situations where a member of the campus community lawfully carrying a handgun is present.
In such a circumstance, will officers be able to distinguish between a lawful concealed carry permit holder and the attacker? Clearly, training concealed carry permit holders for these situations is also essential.
Specific courses recommended by the forum include the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program. Sworn police officers could also receive training from the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) VALOR program, which provides police with tools to help prevent violence against law enforcement officers and enhance officer safety, wellness and resiliency (the program offers both on-site classroom training and online training courses).
Diversity Training May Also Be Necessary For Campus Carry
Some diversity training should also be considered for local and campus police officers. Campus Safety has written about an incident where campus police were questioned for their zealous response to false reports of a black male on campus with a gun. Real or perceived prejudices can do real harm to the campus communities’ trust in the public safety department.
Some specific training examples include:
- The Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Anti-Bias Training for Law Enforcement Professionals
- National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) Strategy: Raising Cultural Awareness
- Center for Human Diversity’s Cultural Competency 101 Training Package for Law Enforcement Personnel
- The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office also has a wide range of useful resources on policing diverse populations
Communication is a Key Element
The task of assuaging concerns or fears the campus community may have about a concealed carry policy will at least in part be handled by campus police. Because of this, colleges should develop a communications plan that extends far beyond the public safety department, involving social media, the college website, signs, brochures and other means of communication so that police officers aren’t left as the sole provider of information on the policy.
Still, campus police should be prepared to give consistent, objective information to campus stakeholders that inquire about the policy. Officers may also consider meeting with student organizations, residence hall organizations, teacher groups and others to stamp out misinformation and present an accurate depiction of the campus carry policy.
Everyone feels strongly one way or another about campus carry policies, but once a law is passed, public college employees have to focus on adhering to it while maintaining campus safety as best as possible.
Thankfully, college officials are not alone in their efforts to create campus carry policies from scratch. Reach out to institutions that are campus carry veterans if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and be sure to check back with Campus Safety to find more great resources!