- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 09 December 2015
- Written by KERRY BREEN | STAFF WRITER
Several NJ colleges, including Monmouth University, have armed police forces on campus. The number of schools with this safety feature is increasing, especially as active shooter situations become more and more common.
Monmouth University employs 20 police officers, all having been certified by the state, some with more than 25 years of experience. The University also employs 12 safety officers and seven traffic attendants. Furthermore, there is a variety of safety measures in place to benefit and protect students. Officers are available 24 hours a day, every day, to help students and others on campus.
“Monmouth University is fortunate to have a professional, well trained police department,” said William McElrath, the Monmouth University Chief of Police.
Armed Monmouth University officers must pass several levels of qualifications to be allowed to carry their firearms. All uniformed officers carry a Glock 23, 40 caliber handgun, according to McElrath; many officers are also qualified with the Colt M4 semi-automatic assault rifle that remains secured in police vehicles.
“Police officers qualify twice a year with their firearms, and must pass a ‘Use of Force’ written test twice a year as well,” said McElrath. “All sworn Monmouth University police officers are armed. Prior to becoming police officers, all officers must complete a five-month certified New Jersey Police Academy. This is a rigorous process that covers all aspects of policing, including “Use of Force” and firearms training.”
Monmouth University police officers receive the same training as municipal officers and State Troopers, and are required to follow the Attorney General Guidelines on Use of Force. The guidelines, written in 1985 and revised in 2000, say that force may only be used as a last resort, after all other methods have been attempted.
“In situations where law enforcement officers are justified in using force, the utmost restraint should be exercised,” read the guidelines of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, found online. “The use of force should never be considered routine. In determining to use of force, the law enforcement officer shall be guided by the principle that the degree of force employed in any situation should be only that reasonably necessary. Law enforcement officers should exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to the use of force. It is the policy of the State of New Jersey that law enforcement officers will use only that force which is objectively reasonable and necessary.”
Under these guidelines (the full text of which can be found online), armed police officers can only use force in situations where there is no other option, and even then, they are urged to use restraint. Another section of the guidelines urges de-escalation as a tactic, as well as ‘interrupting the flow of events’ to make the use of force unnecessary. The guidelines also point out that according to McElrath, there has never been an incident on campus where the use of force was needed.
The Monmouth University police force works with the West Long Branch, Long Branch, and Ocean Township police forces; however, McElrath believes that having an armed police force on campus is nothing but a positive.
“Having our own well-trained police department allows for a quick, professional, and effective response to dangerous situations on campus,” he said. “There is no delay in waiting for outside agencies to respond who may not know the campus, or our campus community, as well as a University officer does.”
“I think they should be armed,” said Malia Padaliano, a sophomore English student. “That way they have a way to defend students if something happens. It also works as a deterrent – when people see a gun, they step back and they take the police more seriously. Besides, usually when you think of cops, you assume that they’re armed, whether it be with a gun or Tazer or something else. It makes the campus a safer place.”
“I guess it’s a good thing because they’re police, they should be armed,” said sophomore chemistry student Lauren Lucia.
Other colleges in the state have armed police forces, including: Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University, and Richard Stockton University. Most community colleges do not have armed police forces; neither do schools including Fairleigh Dickinson University, Seton Hall University, Rider, Drew University, and St. Peter’s College. Princeton University will soon be having a form of armed police – the officers will not carry weapons on their bodies, but they will have weapons in their cars.
The Monmouth Police station is open twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year, even when classes are not in session. Monmouth University and the surrounding area has a very low crime rate; however, those looking to contact the Monmouth University Police Department can do so at 732-571-4444, or call the confidential hotline at 732-263-5222.