Administrator’s opinions ‘mixed’ on arming

Opinion among top University officials is “mixed” on whether to provide the University Police Department officers with guns, said Robert Chernak, senior vice president of Student and Academic Support Services.

Chernak said UPD Chief Dolores Stafford was someone on “one side of the spectrum.” Last spring, Stafford co-authored a report for the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators that recommended arming sworn law enforcement agencies.

Chernak said that many other officials are waiting to hear from the consulting group, James Lee Witt Associates, before making any decisions.

“All we’re dealing with right now is people’s opinions,” Chernak said. “We don’t have enough evidence for what those opinions should be.”

Chernak stressed that arming police is “not a single question of arming or not” and said that one reason James Lee Witt was chosen was for their record of finding different solutions for different universities. In particular, he pointed to their work at John Hopkins University, where unarmed campus police officers are augmented by off-duty officers in the Baltimore Police Department.

“[Johns Hopkins] is a great example of a school that took a middle of the road option,” Chernak said.

Johns Hopkins University spokeswoman Tracey Reeves said people have been “generally satisfied” with the program since it began in 2005.

“There are absolutely no problems we are aware of,” she said.

James Lee Witt Associates will present their preliminary findings to a committee of top University officials within the next three to four weeks, Chernak said.

The committee that will hear the report consists of Chernak, Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz, Senior Vice President and Counsel Beth Nolan, Provost and Vice President for Health Affairs John “Skip” Williams and Barbara Porter, chief of staff to University President Steven Knapp.

Chernak said the decision would ultimately rest with Knapp.

“Our job is to present the findings and make a recommendation to President Knapp. It will ultimately be his decision,” Chernak said.

Little has been made public about the consultants’ research at GW. University spokeswoman Tracy Schario said the group has “a wide scope of work” and are consulting with students, professors, administrators and Foggy Bottom residents.

Student Association Executive Vice President Kyle Boyer said the amount of student input in the research is unknown.

“I would assume students are being asked about their interactions with UPD,” he said, adding that he has not been contacted.

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