EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 24, 2013

Public safety a priority for area colleges, universities

NORTH ANDOVER — “Close to home,” is how Merrimack College police Chief Michael DelGreco described the death of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier, who authorities say was fatally shot last week by the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.

Thousands of law enforcement officers and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend a memorial service for Collier today at MIT in Cambridge. The event is not open to the public. A funeral was held for him yesterday.

DelGreco said several Merrimack College officers knew Collier personally. One officer grew up with the Wilmington native, while others got to know the 26-year-old Somerville resident during regional training sessions they attended together.

“It was tough on them,” said DelGreco. “The question everybody asks is ‘why?’ But they still have a job to do.”

As local colleges and universities grow in size and serve as a second home for more and more students, so too grow the responsibilities of their police departments. Gone are the days when security guards patrolled area campuses.

And while the unthinkable occurred last week at MIT, local colleges say they have procedures in place if a similar situation were to happen.

At Rivier University in Nashua, a school with more than 2,000 students, 10 unarmed security officers patrol the campus.

“All officers are required to have basic skills,” said Richard McDonald, director of public safety and security at Rivier. “We are certified in CPR, first aid and using the few (automatic external defibrillators) which are on campus.”

McDonald said four of his officers are retired members from the Nashua Police Department and all are required to attend a week-long campus safety training program, which is held at a different campus each year.

“They learn how to do drug recognition, fire safety, how to handle sexual assaults and people with aggressive behavior,” he said. “It’s a scaled down version of a police academy.”

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