CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - More police officers on college campuses are armed with guns, pepper spray, or other weapons, and the number is growing, according to the Justice Department.
Every police officer at Coastal Carolina University is armed. The Justice Department says it's a trend more colleges have turned to in just the last ten years because of a rise in school shootings.
"We've had instances all across this country," says CCU Police Chief David Roper. "At schools and campuses where people just walk into buildings and just start shooting. And if you don't have somebody there that can go in and eliminate that threat on that campus within a very short period of time," it only prolongs violence that in many cases is fatal, he says.
The Justice Department report says about 92 percent of public campuses now use sworn police officers in their campus force, up from about 68 percent in 2004.
Sworn officers have full arrest powers, so they don't have to call in another agency. Most are authorized to carry guns, pepper spray, batons and often Tasers.
Parents want to know their children will be safe on campus, and want to know what campus police are equipped to handle.
"It used to be if an active shooter occurred on a location, you would set a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team," Roper says. But that's no longer the case. "Now it's the guy in the patrol car who drives up to the front of that building. He's got to go in."
Despite a low probability of it ever happening, colleges like CCU are preparing their police forces to be ready for an active shooting they hope they'll never have to respond to.
"We're training our front-line officers very hard to be able to respond to that situation. Because he can't wait, every second could potentially be somebody else losing their life."
Far fewer private colleges rely on sworn officers, about 38 percent.