Locals weigh in on arming UPD

Part of a continuing series. Monday, campus police at other schools. Thursday, reactions from students.

Several community leaders expressed hesitation this week at the University’s proposal to arm campus police officers, and many said they hope it will be discussed further with Foggy Bottom residents.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Asher Corson, Foggy Bottom’s top elected official, said giving University Police Department officers guns is a “horrible idea.”

“I don’t want those individuals with guns, and I think they are the most unprofessional people at the University,” said Corson, a 2006 GW alumnus. “I am not comfortable with them having guns.”

He added, “A not-for-profit organization does not have the means, resources and accountability to be armed.”

University officials said last week that they had formed a committee to identify the benefits and drawbacks of giving firearms to UPD officers. The discussion comes on the heels of a report last spring, co-authored by UPD Chief Dolores Stafford, which advocated for campus law enforcement to carry guns.

“I think we should research the issue and be thorough in weighing the pros and cons in making a decision,” Stafford said in an interview with The Hatchet last week.

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said the discussion is still in its early stages but that she believes community input will be solicited before the ultimate decision is made.

“Based on past experience when we make major changes that impact the neighborhood, we will have community meetings,” Schario said. “We will notify the ANC and work with neighborhood groups.”

She added, “We will definitely have a community process where we will solicit feedback.”

Joy Howell, president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said she was surprised the University would consider the idea of giving UPD guns.

“It would be interesting to know why they feel the need to (arm UPD officers),” she said, noting that campus and neighborhood safety is generally strong.

Corson express similar sentiments.

“We are on the closest university campus to the White House,” Corson said. “Telling me our campus is not secure is fear-mongering and it gives the University an authority they shouldn’t have.”

Don Lincoln, a member of the neighborhood association FRIENDS, said he supports the idea of arming UPD because of the possibility of a major incident on campus.

“Not too much goes on in Foggy Bottom, but things do happen,” Lincoln said, adding that he feels safe while walking through campus. “You worry about live arms in the hands of anyone today, but I really do have faith in the security force.”

He added that the proximity to the White House makes it more necessary for UPD to carry guns.

“We live a stone’s throw away from the president’s home,” he said. “It is a good idea that (UPD) is armed.”

Anne Savage, a Foggy Bottom/West End ANC commissioner, said she would be “generally opposed” to the idea of armed UPD officers, adding that she is “just not big on guns.” She said she has supported GW’s management of UPD and hopes a compromise can be reached, such as only giving guns to select officers.

Savage said, “The University does a very good job maintaining its police force.”

Check back for

The Hatchet’s continuing coverage of arming UPD officers:

MONDAY: Campus police at other schools

THURSDAY: Student reaction

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.