Six public safety officers have undergone training to become certified constables for Wesley College – this means the six will ultimately carry guns.
This is a first for Wesley College and many students said they are unhappy about it.
Junior Julius Johnson III does not like the idea of armed constables on campus.
“No matter who it is, anybody with a gun is going to be tempted to use the weapon no matter if it’s for justice or fear,” he said. “Why not have a Taser, pepper spray or learn how to handle someone hand to hand?”
Wesley secretary Cheryl Young said she likes the idea.
“I believe that they’re going to need to be able to defend themselves and the students and staff if they need to,” she said. “It’s their job to help. I think they won’t feel so vulnerable if they have guns.”
Director of Public Safety Walt Beaupre will be one of the six.
“Constables exercise the same powers as peace officers and law-enforcement officers, in order to protect life and property, while in the performance of the lawful duties of Wesley College,” he said.
Constables have the authority to access police databases for criminal histories and are allowed to make arrests if there is a warrant out for a student’s arrest. Constables still must notify Dover Police of any situation.
“With so many tragic school shootings, and in order to best protect the College community, the decision to arm our constables was the next logical step with us now being sworn law enforcement officers for Wesley College. It also gives us the ability to assist Dover Police.” Beaupre said.
Freshman Ilaina Siegel said that arming constables will cause more issues than it will solve.
“I think this is a big safety issue,” she said, “If something bad happens and they pull a gun on someone for an unjustified reason, we [Wesley] will most likely have a lawsuit.”
Siegel said that having guns on campus will negatively impact the student body,
“People will be more afraid to act like themselves because of the stigma that’s going around with the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality,” she said, “It’s just a scary topic for people who it effects.”
Wesley College and Goldey-Beacom were the only higher education institutions in the state of Delaware that did not have armed security officers on campus. Now it’s only Goldey-Beacom.
Delaware State University and University of Delaware have armed university police officers and unarmed public safety officers on campus.
The six nominated constables were sworn in on Aug. 29. They include Beaupre, Angie Fowler, Erik Sasse, Michael Valkenburg, Erika Hodges-Baines and Lloyd Stafford.
State law requires constables to complete 40 hours of firearms training, and go through a background check and a psychological evaluation. Because four of the six Wesley constables have considerable training, only two of the six constables were required to attend five weeks of training at the Constable Academy, which includes classes involving criminal law, crisis communication training and Fourth Amendment rights.
Beaupre said the constables had not completed the final step in the process of being certified to carry a firearm while on duty. Constables must prove they can proficiently fire a gun in both a low light shoot and a day shoot, under the supervision of an approved firearm instructor. (http://regulations.delaware.gov/register/march2018/proposed/21%20DE%20Reg%20681%2003-01-18.htm)
The minimum passing score is 80 percent.
Dover Police Master Corporal Mark Hoffman said Dover police go through six months of training while at the Delaware State Police academy.
“They get trained on everything from physical training to firearm training, title laws and guidelines,” he said. “They learn the full gamut of professional laws.”
Beaupre said carrying firearms will serve as a deterrent and using it will be a last resort after applying situational de-escalation techniques.
Students are not allowed to carry weapons, including guns, according to the Student Handbook (http://wesley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2016-2017-Student-Handbook-updated-Sept2016-2.pdf). Faculty and staff are not allowed either. Current policy states that only law enforcement may have weapons on Wesley’s campus.
Senior Maura Binkley said she doesn’t like the idea of armed constables.
“It’s sort of a scary thought,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to fear being harmed by campus security. I don’t think this is the best idea for the campus.”
Junior Cortey Holder said she was worried about student safety.
“I don’t think it is a good idea,” she said. “They will try to flex their muscle because they have a gun, and maybe they won’t try to talk things out anymore they will just try to reach for their gun, much like many of the police officers who end up in the news for shooting people.”
A recent John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found “little evidence that perpetrators of mass shootings intentionally seek out their targets based on whether or not civilians are prohibited from having guns.” (https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/_pdfs/GunsOnCampus.pdf)
Siegel said she just doesn’t see why guns are necessary at Wesley.
“There have not been that many problems that guns were needed in the past,” she said. “It can be handled without guns, so why start now?”