RALEIGH — Wake Technical Community College, which has witnessed a pair of gun scares during the past academic year, announced Tuesday it will establish a campus police department in July.
While the issue has had the school’s attention since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, Wake Tech president Stephen Scott said they began during this academic year seriously considering the use of sworn officers. He also said the two recent lockdowns “heightened our awareness” and played a role in the new force’s approval by the Board of Trustees on Tuesday.
“We reached a tipping point and feel the timing is right,” Scott said. “We want to take prudent measures to protect our faculty and our staff.”
Plans call for a chief to be hired, leading to a gradual expansion to 14 sworn officers. The department would aim to prevent crime, serve as a deterrent, and allow for rapid response to campus emergencies, Scott said.
In establishing a sworn police force, Wake Tech joins all universities and 14 other community colleges in the UNC System, as well as most private universities located in Wake County except William Peace University.
Wake Tech – a five-campus, 64,000-student institution – has twice locked down a campus in the past six months. In January, the main campus was locked down for 90 minutes by Wake County Sheriff deputies when a domestic threat against a student lead authorities to believe a man with a gun could be on the campus. No gun was found, but the man was later arrested for the threat.
Another lockdown shut down the North Raleigh campus – along with two nearby elementary schools – when a man wearing camouflage and holding a rifle was seen in the vicinity. The location was not far from legal hunting grounds, though, and the situation was later determined not to be a threat.
Scott said the timing was also right from a business sense since the contract with their security company, Wake Tech Security, was due to expire at the end of the year. He expects to retain elements of the company’s services where a sworn officer would not be necessary, but said the firm’s role would be reduced.
Officers at Wake Tech won’t be new for two of the campuses, which last fall each added a school resource officer employed by local law enforcement. The main campus had a Wake County Sheriff’s deputy and the North Raleigh campus had a Raleigh police officer.