RIT will arm specially trained officers in 2016

Questions and Answers

Q: How does this make us safer?

A: RIT Public Safety will soon deploy specially trained officers, who will have access to firearms in an emergency, in an effort to protect individuals on campus. This will significantly reduce the response time to an active violent threat until local law enforcement arrives at the scene. An FBI study of active shooter incidents in past cases shows that once a shooter was confronted by authorities with an armed response, no other innocents were killed.

Q: Why does RIT need guns on campus? Why can’t the Monroe County Sherriff’s Office protect us?

A: The decision was made by RIT leaders after thorough research and evaluation of the benefits and inherent risks. According to FBI data, there were 120 students, faculty and staff who were victims of gun violence on college campuses between 2000 and 2013. Of all the active shooter incidents in the U.S. during that time period, about 24 percent occurred at educational institutions. All RIT Public Safety officers on each shift will conduct their duties as they do today, but some specially trained officers will be able to access a firearm in the event of an active violent threat to the students, employees and guests of the university. The Sheriff’s Office response to campus will be significant during an active emergency. RIT’s initial response builds upon their response plan.

Q: Will all Public Safety officers be armed? If not, how many people will be armed and who are they?

A: No, not all Public Safety Officers will be “armed.” Specially-trained officers on each shift will have access to firearms in the event of an active violent threat.

Q: How will the specially trained officers be held responsible/accountable? Will they wear body cameras?

A: RIT Public Safety is an accredited department through the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Association. Any action taken by Public Safety involving a firearm will be investigated by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and RIT. A new senior-level manager at RIT Public Safety will be hired after a national search to oversee this program. The new manager will develop procedures and training that will mirror local police departments, including whether or not body-worn cameras will be used by officers.

Q: Will we see officers walking around campus with guns?

A: No. The specially trained officers will have access to firearms.

Q: Does this mean students, faculty and staff can have guns on campus now?

A: No. students, faculty, staff and visitors will not be permitted to possess firearms on RIT property in accordance with New York state law and University Policy C17.0.

Q: Under what circumstances would an officer need to use a gun?

A: The specially trained Public Safety officers will respond rapidly and effectively to active violent incidents to contain the situation until law enforcement arrives.

Q: What is the difference between a Public Safety officer and a police officer?
A: Public Safety officers are not police officers and they do not have arrest powers.

Q: Will Public Safety begin making arrests now that they are armed?

A: No. Public Safety officers do not have the power of arrest at RIT.

Q: Do other universities have armed police?

A: Yes. Many upstate New York universities have armed security on their campuses. This includes Monroe Community College, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Geneseo, Finger Lakes Community College, and Cornell University. Furthermore, all 29 four-year campuses in the State University of New York system have their own armed police forces and have to plan and practice for active shooters as part of emergency plans.

Q: Has there ever been a threat of an attack at RIT before?

A: Yes, in 2004, an armed robbery occurred on campus and two staff members were injured.

Q: In 2012, there was an incident on campus that involved an umbrella, where the umbrella was mistaken for a rifle by a bus driver who called 911 with his concerns. What would have happened if Public Safety was armed when the umbrella scare happened?

A: The umbrella incident was not an active violent situation. Officers’ training and standard operating procedures will dictate when officers will access the firearms.

Q: What type of firearms will these specially trained officers have access to?

A: The specific type of firearm will be finalized once Public Safety’s new senior manager is hired in 2016.

Q: Will the specially trained officers be fluent in American Sign Language (ASL)?

A: All Public Safety officers must successfully complete two ASL classes during their first year of employment at RIT.

Q: What type of training do these and other Public Safety officers receive to handle mental health crises?

A: All Public Safety officers are trained annually by local subject matter experts on how to respond to and coordinate mental health crises.