State lawmakers: Arm campus police - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

State lawmakers: Arm campus police

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. -

Two state lawmakers are reviving efforts to arm police at the University of Rhode Island following an incident in which reports of a gunman sent students running from classrooms.

Representatives Joseph Almeida and Doreen Costa said Friday that they will urge the General Assembly to authorize campus police officers to carry guns. Similar legislative proposals have failed in the past.

Rhode Island is the only state that prohibits public university from carrying guns.

URI was on lockdown for more than two hours Thursday after people in a lecture hall said they heard someone say they had a gun. Police found no gun or shooter.

"I certainly would not want to work at a police department that did not provide me with all of the tools of the trade that includes a firearm," said Chief Vincent Vespia of the South Kingstown Police Department.

South Kingstown officers were the first responders to the incident. They arrived on scene three minutes after the initial call. Campus police arrived in one minute but could not go inside Chafee Hall unarmed.

Only two campuses in the state have armed police officers, Brown University and Naval War College. Both are private institutions.

"Incidents can be over in a matter of a couple of minutes and response time is critical," said Capt. Joel Ewing-Chow of the South Kingstown Police Department.

Almeida, a former police officer, says armed campus police would be better equipped to respond to a real shooting.

URI President David Dooley says he's been asking for armed campus officers since he first arrived at the school.

"That's something we'll continue to look at. I'm on the record as supporting that move and I think this will cause us to have a look at it with even more intensity," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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