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U of Nebraska at Kearney officers now carrying handguns

September 20, 2018

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) — Campus police officers have begun carrying handguns at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, 44 years after college officials decided to disarm the force.

University spokeswoman Kelly Bartling told the Kearney Hub that the change was made after conversations with police officials at other University of Nebraska system campuses. The change aligns the Kearney campus police with the policies, procedures, standards and equipment of its peer agencies. The university also reviewed its threat assessment team and procedures.

“When it came down to the nuts and bolts of it, we were lacking some of those services” the other departments have, including weapons, said Jim Davis, the Kearney campus police chief.

Said Bartling: “Our students and our campus community will be safer with armed officers.”

Some on campus have raised concerns.

Jonathan Dettman, chairman of the modern languages department, said he thinks firearms make every police interaction with a student or community member a potentially lethal one.

Faculty members were told the university system’s campus police departments were being centralized and consolidated in the wake of budget cuts, Dettman said.

“It’s not clear to me why this makes it necessary for police to carry guns on the UNK campus,” Dettman said.

Bartling said budget concerns had nothing to do with the decision to arm the Kearney officers.

“There’s nothing going toward consolidation,” she said. “It’s merely operating under the same resources, sharing practices and working together.”

The college administrators decided in 1974 to disarm the campus officers, citing concerns about their training. Policing duties were turned over to the Kearney city police.

Chief Davis said his officer candidates must complete 16 weeks of basic training at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island, which is the same training completed by city and county officers.

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Information from: Kearney Hub, http://www.kearneyhub.com/

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