DMACC to begin arming security

This month, security officers will patrol the halls of DMACC Ankeny campus with firearms for the first time. 

Along with firearms, other officers will also be carrying tasers. This has been an ongoing discussion between the DMACC administration, the security team, students, and other campus groups for almost two years before implementation.

Terry Harrison, DMACC’s security supervisor, explained that all security officers that will, or have received firearms training, have law enforcement backgrounds: “[Our] first start was with people with that background already.” He added, “We wanted that 10, 20, 30 years of experience carrying a weapon.”

Aislyn White and Shelby Reams, freshmen at the Ankeny campus, agreed that the decision to employ former law enforcement officials helps them feel more comfortable about the changes. “It’s more reassuring” Reams said, to which White added, “I feel better with the tasers than the guns . . . I know guns escalate situations.”

Harrison detailed why the long-range tasers are an important addition: “We’ve got the newest taser system. There are only seven taser instructors in the state of Iowa [for this new system], and we are using the master instructor who trained the other six.” The security team currently has eight officers trained with the new tasers, and plan on training more as soon as possible.

Harrison said that officers don’t carry pepper spray or pepper foam, and that a taser allows a security officer to intervene in a violent situation from a distance and save more people from being hurt. “If an officer can respond from 20 feet away, I can back off and still control the situation.”

More than just DMACC students and staff will be affected by these changes. Trail Point Aquatics and Wellness serve the surrounding Ankeny community with among other things, child care. 

Director of Trail Point, Bill Blunk, spoke to what the current security post outside of the child care center has meant to the youth that go there, saying, “That was a concern when we decided to put a security guard outside our building: what the feel of that would be, and they turned their post into an extension of what Trail Point’s customer service is.”

Blunk detailed how the security team has impacted the feel of entering Building 5: “They have really built relationships with our students and members . . . from Cookie Friday for the kids that come to our child care, to always have suckers for them as well, our kids just flock to them.”

Most students that spoke to the Chronicle about the issue were accepting of the coming changes. Ankeny student Sully Fitzgerald explained why he said the decision was good, saying, “I think it’s important that someone carries, I don’t think everyone should . . . I think it’s important to have someone that knows what they’re doing, and has the ability to stop someone from doing harm.”

According to Officer Harrison, student safety was paramount to whatever decision was approved by the school, and students like Ankeny’s Matthew Larsen said that was evident to him. “If [DMACC] had people that weren’t used to using a firearm, you could end up injuring someone else by accident just because you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“If something tragic does happen, you call the police. If [former] police are already here, then that saves you time and maybe lives” Fitzgerald added, agreeing with his friend’s statement.

The Ankeny campus will have two officers carrying firearms during the day that are purposefully not stationed anywhere specifically. They will be moving between all buildings, increasing who is protected, while also making it harder to plan anything nefarious against the trained officer.

“The officer [carrying a firearm] might be at any of our stations at any given time. There are no set times for the roving officer, so you can’t look at your watch at 10:15 and know where he will be. There is no set pattern, so they can’t be targeted.”

Students Reams and White agreed that it made more sense to them for the officers tasked with firearms to roam the Ankeny campus buildings. Reams explained that she feels this will allow them to be closer to more possible situations.

This was a process that has evolved over the past few years in which there were a lot of questions. “We did our due diligence in checking [the new officers’] backgrounds to make sure there were no use of force issues,” Harrison said, answering an unasked but important question.

“I’m glad we went slow with these decisions . . . we decided we can’t just use people from security. We need the input of staff members,” Harrison said as to why this has been a multi-year process. “We have someone from the bookstore on the safety committee . . . we wanted input from the English department, [and] from people in child care. They brought up questions that we didn’t even think of.”

He said the most asked question and probably the most important was “How can we do this and do it right?”

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