In the coming months, the Barton Community College Board of Trustees will look at ways to improve campus security.
At Tuesday’s study session, trustees heard options that included creating a campus police force or contracting with the Barton County Sheriff’s Office to have a deputy on campus 24/7.
Both options would be costly, according to Dean of Administration Mark Dean and Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir. The sheriff said another option may be to “maintain and enhance the existing relationship with the college.”
The campus recently added one security officer to the day shift, bringing the number to eight, including Jim Ireland, coordinator of facility management. “Right now, for the first time in two years, we are fully staffed,” Dean said.
The college could send its officers to the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Academy and have them carry weapons. Those who pass would expect salary increases as law enforcement officers.
“I’m paying $32,000 plus benefits,” Bellendir told the trustees. “You’ll have to pay better than that.”
A campus police force would also need some things the BCSO already has: A shooting range, evidence locker, patrol car and the officers’ equipment.
The board of trustees has the authority to designate campus security officers as law enforcement officers, Dean said. But, “you may find unintentional consequences by this decision.” Before making any change, he recommends checking with legal and insurance representatives.
The most expensive option would be to contract with the BCSO to have deputies on campus all of the time. “We’ve contracted with Claflin and Pawnee Rock in the past,” Bellendir said. “It didn’t always go so well.”
Should expenses for security go up as much as $180,000 a year, BCC might need to increase tuition and/or fees, at least for Barton County students.
Administrators agreed that waiting until the need for better security arises means waiting until it’s too late. However, no amount of security can prevent an event such as a campus shooter.
Ireland said his campus security officers are trained to respond to a certain level of situation, and to call law enforcement if necessary. The Barton County Sheriff’s Office has always responded, and the Great Bend Police Department would also respond if needed.
But are they close enough? Another option would be to have staff carry concealed weapons. However, Bellendir noted, “The conceal carry statute is not intended to be a replacement for a law enforcement agency.”
Chairman Mike Johnson said the board must eventually decide if it is comfortable with the current level of service.
Trustee Mike Minton asked the staff explore the cost of enhancements to the current situation.
Bellendir offered some suggestions.
“In years past we’ve had (BCSO) drills on campus,” he said. Campus security could also be tied to the 911 dispatch system, with a dispatcher to check on officers periodically. “Something I would look into at least would be to issue bulletproof vests,” he said.
Johnson said the board won’t be rushing to any conclusions.
“This is a hot button topic,” he said. “We owe it to the students and staff to make sure we’re doing everything possible to try and help and not hurt.”
In related discussions, trustees reviewed a campus crisis plan with Director of Public Relations Brandon Steinert and a Title IX report from Dean of Student Services Angie Maddy. Title IX encompasses all aspects of gender equality in education, including federal legislation on sexual harassment and misconduct. The college established a team to oversee the many aspects of institutional compliance, she said. Online safety training for employees and students will be rolled out in the spring of 2016.