The decision to make rifles available to sworn Department of Public Safety officers reflects national best practice about how to keep campus secure right now, DPS Executive Director Paul Ominsky said.
“We wanted to come up with a specific protocol for emergency response,” Ominsky explained, adding that getting an armed responder to the scene quicklyis key to the safety of the community.
The new policy was announced at the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting on Monday by Ominsky. The policy gives sworn DPS officers – who were trained for 26 weeks in the New Jersey State Police Academy – access to rifles in the event of an emergency.
The only emergencies in which rifles will be accessed by DPS’s swornofficers would be in the event of an active shooter incident or if someone is brandishing a firearm on campus, Ominsky said, adding that DPS will have a policy and procedure for defining such emergencies.
“In both of those situations, time matters,” he said.
Ominsky noted that DPS is not arming officers, so the officers will not carry handguns.
He said he proposed this policy change a while ago, and that it has been under discussion for a few months.
“We continually refine and review our plans, and although we have a very safe campus, the national protocols have really evolved,” he said.
University President Christopher Eisgruber '83 deferred comment to Executive Vice President Treby Williams '84.
Williams noted that a national specific protocol change for active shooter situations was one of the elements that brought about the University’s proposal.
According to Ominsky, DPS often conducts drills with the Princeton Police Department, which it also consulted regarding response protocol. The organizations work together regularly, he said.
“We hope we never have to have officers access the rifles, but we need to prepare and to train our staff,” Ominsky said. “This is a preventative measure."
PPD Sergeant Steven Riccitello deferred comment to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua.
Ominsky noted that in many situations where safety is important, student input is not involved.
“The safety of the University community is the administration’s top priority,” Ominsky said. “There are times when administrators will act on behalf of the community for that purpose, so we did not consult with students.”
Williams, who noted that her role gives her responsibility for overseeing safety on campus, said she and Ominsky worked closely together along with many other people across the institution to develop the rifle policy.
“As Executive Director Ominsky said, this measure that we’re using here has been under careful consideration,” Williams said. "We think it’s limited in the appropriate way and addresses what could be a very significant and severe situation on campus, which we hope never occurs but nevertheless we need to be prepared for."
In 2013, former University President Shirley Tilghman said guns had no place on campus.
“We have in place a number of measures that will ensure that if there is a risk … police can rapidly have the appropriate response without having our own police officers armed,” she said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.
In response to Tilghman’s statement, Ominsky said, “Times have changed and the best practices have evolved.”