Univ. hires firm to study arming UPD

Correction appended

The University hired consulting firm James Lee Witt Associates to study the feasibility of arming University Police Department officers, a University spokeswoman said Monday.

Witt Associates, which calls itself “a crisis and emergency management consulting firm,” will lead a review of campus safety with the help of a committee of GW administrators. The firm will carry out the review during the spring semester and plans to have the project completed by the end of the school year.

University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said the University chose Witt Associates because of their experience in the field of private security.

“We selected them because of their experience in higher education and state and federal government,” she said.

The school has yet to determine an exact timeline of how the review will proceed. Schario said the consultants will work to solicit feedback from University “stakeholders,” including students, faculty and other community members.

Witt Associates previously worked with several colleges in the California State University system on issues related to terrorism and natural disasters.

James Lee Witt, the firm’s founder, was the director of Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1993 to 2001. After Hurricane Katrina, he oversaw reconstruction efforts in both Louisiana and Texas. It is not known if Witt will have a hand in his firm’s work at GW.

Officials from Witt Associates declined to comment on the matter.

In an editorial in last Monday’s Hatchet, UPD Chief Dolores Stafford emphasized the department’s professionalism.

“Rest assured that regardless of the final decisions made as a result of the arming study, we will continue to strive to be one of the best campus police departments in the country,” Stafford wrote. “We take our jobs as police officers at GW seriously, and we prepare for the worst at the same time that we hope for the best for our community.”

The committee on arming UPD will consist of University Counsel Beth Nolan, Senior Vice President Robert Chernak, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz, Provost John “Skip” Williams and Barbara Porter, University President Steven Knapp’s chief of staff.

This article has been changed to reflect the following correction: (December 8, 2008)

The Hatchet erroneously reported that James Lee Witt Associates worked with the University of California system. The company has worked with the California State University system.

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