HARTFORD, CT — Five years after the Connecticut Board of Regents began studying the issue, it voted Thursday to allow armed police to patrol the 12 community colleges.

In a unanimous vote, the board approved a process for community colleges to train and authorize its security officers to carry firearms.

Any community college interested in establishing an armed police force will have to submit a comprehensive plan to the president of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) that includes a campus security profile and officer requirements, as well as a use-of-force policy.

“Providing community colleges the option to have special police forces on campus is driven by the desire consistently expressed by students, faculty, and staff to feel safe,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said.

“It is part of our larger approach including reviewing all of our support services and physical infrastructure to ensure we’re doing everything we can to protect the learning environment on all of our campuses,” he added.

Merle Harris, chair of Student and Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Regents, told her fellow board members that while there is no definitive time plan for when the first college will implement the plan, “It should be a quick process — in the near future.’’

Harris said the Board of Regents first started seriously looking at the issue “about five years ago.”

The Board of Regents moved ahead with the plan after the General Assembly passed legislation this May approving guidelines for the use-of-force policy. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill into law.

Harris added that the board received a recommendation from a consulting firm hired “about two years ago,” to proceed with plans to allow police forces on campuses to carry guns.

Harris said: “We do have issues on campuses. And after we studied the overall issue, we believe this is the safest course to take for protection of our students.”

Harris said that other states around the country allow on-campus security forces to carry guns.

“We hope this will work,” Harris said. “We think this will work.”

She added that the Student and Academic Affairs Committee will be reviewing the security procedures put into place and make recommendations for revisions as they see fit.