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Campuses Taking a Closer Look at Security

Campuses Taking a Closer Look at Security

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Paul Nelson, KSL NewsradioThe tragic shootings at Virginia Tech have college campuses all over the country looking at their own security. But, not all campuses have the same level of security.

You may think the phrase "Campus Police" means the same thing for every school. For the most part, you're right. They're designed to keep little problems on campus from becoming big ones.

University of Utah Police Chief Scott Folsom says, "That's why all of our police cars are all marked and our officers in uniform. That's why our security officers are in marked vehicles and clearly identifiable as security, to help dissuade things from occurring in the first place."

Large campuses like BYU, the University of Utah, Utah State and Weber State all have sworn officers monitoring the schools.

Folsom says there is no difference in training or capability. "We do hazardous materials training. We do critical-incident response training. We do the same sorts of training that every police department in this valley does. In fact, we often co-train with other departments so that we have co-responsibility. In the event of a shooting on campus, we have a critical-incident response protocol that would unfold."

But, the same is not true for the smaller colleges. For example, Westminster College uses its group called the Campus Patrol. While its members get training in self-defense and conflict management from police departments, they are not sworn officers. Folsom says many schools don't want to overwhelm the students with a heavy police presence. "Any level of security, almost by definition, is some limitation on your personal sense of being."

Folsom says events like the shootings on Monday can overwhelm any police group. "It's hard to plan for events of this scale. It is sort of the right-hand edge of a probability table."

In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, Folsom says they will be adding a few more patrols at the University of Utah to make students feel more secure. "We've canceled some vacation days, and we're not allowing any days off. This is the time of year when, often times, officers will be taking vacation days. We're re-prioritizing some other training so that we have people on the road instead of away at training."

That is not to say that campus police departments can stop all tragedies. Even Virginia Tech has an on-site police department. The Web site "Slate" says that department has the seal of approval from a national board called the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement, a distinction that is tough to get.

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