Legislation that would allow a private college in southwest Missouri to employ police officers on-campus will go before a House committee Monday in Jefferson City.

State Rep. Jeff Justus, R-Branson, speaks on the Missouri House floor in Jefferson City on March 12, 2019 (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

The bill from State Rep. Jeff Justus, R-Branson, will be heard Monday at noon by the House Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee.

It’s called the “Private College Campus Protection Act.” Last year’s bill would have allowed any of Missouri’s private college or universities to employ police officers on-campus, but the bill stalled.

Justus has rewritten the language so that the new bill only applies to College of the Ozarks, which is located in Point Lookout.

College of the Ozarks Operation Head for Crisis Management Kurt McDonald traveled to Jefferson City last February to testify for the bill, saying it’s about response time.

McDonald notes Point Lookout is about 30 minutes away from Taney County Sheriff’s deputies in Forsyth. He testified in February that the bill is needed because of what he calls the too-often threat of an active shooter, and emphasized his respect for Taney County Sheriff’s deputies.

“I don’t want to be the person that calls a parent in the loss of a student, and this is a way that we can put another level of protection by being our own first responders,” McDonald testified in 2019.

Bill supporters say it would ensure campus safety and would require a professionalism for College of the Ozarks campus security. Under the bill, officers would have to take an oath of office and finish police training to obtain a peace officer license.

Justus’ bill is House Bill 1282.

This year’s bill includes a location description for “private college” or “private university” within five miles “of any city of the fourth classification with more than 4,000 but fewer than 4,500 inhabitants and located in any county of the first classification with more than 50,000 but fewer than 70,000.”

These provisions only apply to College of the Ozarks.

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