Villanova University in Philadelphia says it will convert part of its public safety department to sworn police officers with the authority to carry firearms.
The university announced in a news release that the transition of the department will begin in fall 2016; when it is complete, about 20 percent of the 75-member department will be sworn police officers.
Officials say that by creating a department with both security and police officers, Villanova can provide a higher level of campus safety, quicker response time and enhanced partnerships with local law enforcement.
“The safety and security of the Villanova campus is our top priority,” says the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Villanova’s president. “We are extremely fortunate that Villanova has been a safe place, but given the increased frequency of safety and security incidents at colleges nationwide, it is essential that the University is proactive in strengthening our ability to provide a safe and secure campus environment.”
The decision to have sworn police officers came after two years of study. The change will align Villanova with the majority of its higher education peers--nearly 70 percent of all colleges and universities nationwide have a police department, the university says.
Villanova’s existing Public Safety Department has a variety of responsibilities: patrol, investigations, parking enforcement, residence hall and building security, crime prevention, and special-event security. But it does not have direct radio communication with local police departments, and officers cannot use lights and sirens to quickly respond to emergencies. Officers also do not have authority to stop, question or detain individuals without permission, and do not carry firearms or other defensive equipment.
To become sworn police, Villanova officers will undergo extensive police academy training. It includes 770 hours of intensive instruction; tests of physical and emotional readiness; and instruction in crisis management, criminal investigation, patrol, first aid, defensive tactics, and laws and procedures.
Once sworn, the police officers will carry firearms and other defensive equipment. Villanova plans to establish an oversight committee to ensure that safeguards are in place and that appropriate policies and procedures are followed.