HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System said Thursday that students, faculty and staff believe armed security is necessary at community colleges because they don't feel safe on campus.
Mark Ojakian appeared before the General Assembly's High Education and Employment Advancement Committee to testify in favor of legislation that would allow special police forces to be created at each of the state's 12 community colleges, pending approval from each campus and the state's Board of Regents.
Currently, only Naugatuck Community College has armed officers.
Ojakian said allowing armed, special police forces will bring "a fundamental level of fairness and equality" to the safety and security at community colleges that's in line with what is already provided at UConn and the state universities.
"These officers will receive the same training and certification as university officers, and will thus be better equipped to meet the security needs of our students," he said, adding how students and staff were particularly concerned in the wake of a deadly mass shooting on Oct. 1 at an Oregon community college.
Kent Rep. Roberta Willis, the committee's co-chairman, said she has some concerns with the legislation, noting that community colleges are smaller and have a different dynamic than other state colleges and universities. Also, she voiced concern that community colleges don't have adequate mental health services.
"If we're going to talk about armed officers, investing in that, we need to be investing in mental health and counseling first," Willis said.
Ojakian said efforts are underway to expand such services on community college campuses.