Southwestern College police force evaluating rifles for officers

SWC police only force in county without rifles

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - Southwestern College in Chula Vista is divided over whether campus police should be equipped with high-powered rifles.

The school's police force is currently the only police force in San Diego County without rifles.

More than 20,000 students attend the school every year, and school police officials said a campus shooter would be devastating.

"If you're going to get into any kind of firefight, we need to be better than the criminal that we're up against," said Southwestern College Police Chief Mike Cash.

Currently, Southwestern campus police officers carry only handguns, which are only accurate up to 25 yards. Rifles are considered accurate up to 1,000 yards, and Cash said that distance would allow officers to take action against a shooter from a much safer distance.

"With an open campus, if we need to stop a threat, we need to stop it so that it doesn't get to the interior of the campus," said Cash.

"Is a high-powered rifle the answer to that? I really think that they should look toward other ways," said Southwestern College Associated Student Organization representative Oscar Garcia.

Garcia said the school should pay attention to looming budget cuts instead of rifles, which would cost the school upwards of $50,000.

SWC professor Corina Soto has opposed the purchase of rifles for a while. She said the school should focus on safety and an emergency plan before buying the weapons. Soto took it a step further and said faculty and students should be armed before police.

"Police officers have not been the first responders at a majority of the campuses where shootings have taken place. Faculty and staff and students have been the first responders," Soto said in an email to 10News.

Cash said he's accepting input from everyone on campus, but he did not give a timetable on a decision.


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