Last week, the International Association for Campus Law Enforcement Administrators released a report co-authored by University Police Department Chief Dolores Stafford that promotes the use of firearms by college police forces. Yet when The Hatchet asked if Stafford supported such changes for the GW campus, she redirected the question to senior administrators.
In the year after the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the University has released multiple recommendations to ensure campus safety in Foggy Bottom, the latest of which was released in January. The Campus Safety and Security Commission issued nine specific, proactive measures the University can take to avert a similar crisis. However, these reports did not address firearm usage by UPD.
Though the issue does not provide for a clear-cut response, it does warrant open consideration from the University and a discussion of both the merits and dangers of arming campus police.
Such conversation could open the floor for University officials and students to discuss the security concerns of an urban college community. Over the past year, Foggy Bottom has seen a series of assaults across campus. The authority that accompanies an armed campus police force may serve as a useful deterrent for campus crime.
With adequate training and widespread patrols, armed UPD officers would serve as a powerful tool in preventing and limiting school shootings.
But while these concerns may cause the University to examine the possibility of arming UPD, consideration should be given to the significant consequences of such a policy.
While GW students often profit from their proximity to such major institutions as the World Bank, State Department and White House, this location also places our campus in the jurisdiction of Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division, among other agencies. UPD is by no means the sole police force patrolling Foggy Bottom and in some cases, it is not even the primary police force responding to incidents involving students.
Stafford’s office already has a strong working relationship with overlapping police forces and does not hesitate to invoke MPD’s authority when necessary. With these considerations in mind, it may seem unnecessary to introduce the risk of handguns on campus.
This issue merits comprehensive discussion that should not be limited to senior administrators. Bringing guns on campus affects the entire GW population. The student voice on this issue must be considered.