Campus police in the South Orange County Community College District will get new weapons under a $19,000 plan approved Monday by trustees.
In a 4-to-1 vote, trustees approved upgrading campus police weapons from .38-caliber revolvers to 9-millimeter semiautomatic handguns.
Campus police officials said the upgrade, endorsed by the Orange County Sheriff's Department, is necessary because the 15-year-old revolvers in use lack safety devices.
This is the second time the trustees considered a request to upgrade the weapons. In August the same request failed by a 3-to-2 vote.
Trustee Joan Hueter cast the deciding vote Monday, having originally voted against the upgrade. Hueter said her son-in-law, a reserve sheriff's deputy, explained to her the safety benefits of the 9-millimeter weapons.
"I don't like guns," Hueter said. "But I do feel safer with our police force being armed."
Trustee David Lang abstained from the vote but proposed a motion to disarm the campus police, which was defeated.
"There are better ways we can protect our students," Lang said.
"It's just a travesty to even suggest that you disarm the police in the community," said Ted Romas, Irvine Valley College police chief.
About 30% of the state's 107 community colleges have armed police forces. Saddleback and Irvine Valley are the only county community colleges with armed police.