In 2017, Public Safety began arming officers on the UR Medical Center campus.
Now, DPS is proposing to station two armed supervising officers on mobile patrol at the River Campus and one at Eastman.
University Spokesperson Sara Miller says the proposed armed officers at River Campus and nearby UR properties would be assigned to vehicle units. The officer at Eastman would be on a roving foot patrol.
According to Miller, armed officers cannot stray from these patrol posts except during emergencies. Additionally, the two armed River Campus supervisors would be part of pre-existing DPS vehicle patrols.
Currently, officers run 24/7 shifts at URMC, including multiple static posts at Strong Memorial Hospital, with multiple foot patrols and a vehicle patrol around the area.
“We believe the University has a responsibility to provide the same level of protection to all of the areas patrolled by DPS,” the proposal says.
As for why armed DPS officers are more effective than police for incidents involving weapons, the proposal says, “DPS officers are better trained than any area law enforcement agency and understand our University community and culture.”
“These officers should be the first responders to every call for service, and especially those involving deadly weapons where a rapid armed response is needed for life preservation,” the proposal continues.
One catalyst for the arming of officers at URMC and the current proposal was an FBI training exercise conducted four years ago. According to Miller, the exercise “demonstrated how outside agencies have a difficult time navigating through River Campus in an urgent response situation, particularly through our tunnel system.”
DPS is also concerned about working high-profile events like Commencement, Mel Weekend, and D-Day without armed officers.
The University sometimes uses metal detectors at events, especially those involving visiting performers, so DPS would like an armed officer at those events in case someone is found to have a weapon.
UR is one of 58 institutions in the Association of American Universities with sworn agencies — DPS is sworn to New York State, which means its officers require 595 hours of training, with an additional 96 if they are armed.
Notably, of these 58 institutions, UR is the only one without armed coverage for all campuses.
All armed officers at URMC have undergone background and psychological evaluations as well. The proposal also mentions additional training DPS has given officers regarding matters including impartiality, de-escalation and minimal use of force, and racial diversity.
Captains Joseph Reed and Cynthia Coates report to Director of Public Safety Mark Fischer on matters of diversity and inclusion. They have significantly changed the recruitment process and have begun an internal mentoring program.
The proposal adds that, currently, armed supervisors can’t attend meetings and interact with students, staff, or faculty (they would do this while unarmed), rendering them incapable of “developing the relationships that support their supervisory role.”
The proposal would allow them to have these interactions.
DPS has been a sworn agency since 2013, but all officers were unarmed until January 2017, when three high-ranking officers, including Fischer, were armed. The following month, armed officers were first deployed at URMC posts.
In October of that year, these officers became able to respond to specific service calls on all campuses involving a “matter of life or health safety,” as the proposal puts it — provided they were the closest available officer.
However, Eastman typically relies completely on RPD for incidents involving a weapon.
On average, drills from a URMC post to the River Campus have taken six minutes. Responses directly from a River Campus post take a third of that. Though the former figure is an improvement from 2016 drills, it’s still “concernedly slow,” the proposal says.
DPS mentions the delay in relation to an active shooter situation, where, according to the proposal, “statistics indicate an injury happens every 15 seconds and a death every minute.”
The proposal is particularly concerned with mass shootings. Its appendix shows the number of school shootings as trending down through 2017, but the number of victims per attack as increasing. DPS believes this is because “active shooters now typically plan and practice their attacks.” The number of school shootings through March of this year also exceeded the entire 2017 figure.
In order to pass, the proposal requires a recommendation from the Public Safety Review Board. After that, it would go to President Feldman for final review.
Miller added that Fischer will be meeting with student groups and other campus constituencies over the next few weeks to discuss the proposal.
“The conversations with the community are the first step in this process,” said Miller. “The [Review Board] and the President are looking for feedback from students, staff, and faculty.”