Temple University in North Philadelphia is the most recent addition to a steadily growing number of urban universities across the nation arming their police officers with semiautomatic weapons. And Penn Public Safety Managing Director Thomas Seamon said he is seriously considering bringing semiautomatic weapons to the University Police department. "It's something that might have been controversial 10 years ago, but it's now the standard throughout the country," he said, adding that in order to keep with national trends, the University has no choice but to upgrade. But Seamon added that he does not have a definitive timetable of when the guns may be brought to the University. "It's not something that must be done by the end of this month, but it's something that I'm seriously considering," he explained. University Fraternal Order of Police Local President Dave Ball agreed that semiautomatic weapons are necessary in West Philadelphia. He added the new weapons could boost officers' morale. Ball explained that the newer guns are much more accurate than the .38-caliber revolvers that are in use today. "Mostly everyone, including the criminals, are using semiautomatic weapons," Ball said. One of the main reasons for upgrading the currently used revolvers is that most police academy training now involves the use of the semiautomatic weapons, Seamon said. He added that it is becoming very difficult to find police training programs that teach officers how to use revolvers. Seamon is currently analyzing which brand of semiautomatic gun the University should buy and is also looking at cost considerations. But most importantly, the safety of the officers need to be considered, Seamon said. Victim Support Director Maureen Rush, who was once a sergeant in a narcotics strike force in one of the most dangerous areas of Philadelphia, is a strong supporter of semiautomatic weapons. She said that almost everyone being arrested had an semiautomatic with a capacity to hold 18 bullets. At times, she said, she has felt "outgunned." "It seemed kind of odd that I was walking around with six [rounds] and they had 18 [rounds]," she said. "It enhances the feeling for officers' safety, both in perception and actuality." By the end of next semester, Temple University Police officers will have switched to semiautomatic weapons, according to Howard Lebofsky, executive assistant for Police and Security Services at Temple. Lebofsky said Temple's main motivation for the upgrade is that the department has had mechanical problems with revolvers. He added that older weapons become costly due to maintenance, while semiautomatic weapons require little upkeep. In the last few years, Yale University and Harvard University police forces have both moved to semiautomatic weapons.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.