By Nigel Flores
City College held a campus safety open forum on Nov. 30 to discuss safety concerns within the campus community, including whether or not campus police should be equipped with firearms.
The open forum took place to shed light on the City College Public Safety Management Study, an assessment that will analyze current public safety infrastructure to measure if it is equipped and prepared to handle any safety issues the college may face, as described by campus police.
The crowd of eight, including campus Police Chief Andre Barnes, was led in their discussion by Steven Healy, a managing partner for the consulting firm heading the study – Margolis Healy.
Healy took an opportunity early in the forum to discuss and explain the 911 Shield safety application that the college implemented. The application allows users to request escorts, report suspicious activity and view emergency resources.
Violence on College Campuses
The recent knife attack at Ohio State University, which left 11 people hospitalized, raised concern about safety on campus for Chris Brodi, a student health staff member.
Brodi explained that he mostly feels safe when he is on the Ocean campus, but still worries about shootings and other violent incidents on other college campuses.
“Those events happening in schools has become a thing,” Brodi said.
Ohio State police officer, Alan Horujko, who was present during the Ohio State University tragedy, fatally shot the attacker after he rammed into a group of people and started charging at others with a butcher knife.
A faculty member, who claimed to have worked at City College for over 20 years, said that he keeps the incident at Ohio State and past incidents, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, in the back of his mind.
“If you look at crime stats for urban campuses, it looks like there is a bubble over a campus. They are usually much safer than the surrounding community”, Healy said, “but there is no bubble around it, so they are not completely immune.”
Another faculty member stated that she feels as comfortable on campus as she does down the street, because “the college is in the middle of San Francisco and crime does not stop.”
Campus Police and Firearms
According to Healy the police at the City College are one of the few “outliers” institutions, especially for the college’s size, that do not arm their officers with firearms.
Arming campus police officers was a main focus of the forum and the discussion prompted different reactions from those in attendance.
Brodi questioned why campus police are not equipped like every other officer in the city, but added that he feared arming officers would invite other problems and possibly provoke individuals to act violently.
Students close to one faculty member have expressed that they feel safer with police being unarmed.
The general consensus of those involved in the forum expressed that the campus is safe, but violent incidents are a threat to safety at City College.
“We are different and unique- but we are not immune. And that’s why I have concerns,” Chief Barnes said.
In the last 12 months, Barnes said that campus police have recovered fully operational firearms, such as a shotgun and revolver, several knives, and martial arts type weapons throughout the City College’s 11 campuses.
“Weapons alone are not the only thing we want to look at,” Barnes said. “We want to make sure that we’re talking about officer training and ethical and legal responsibility for use of force.”
Barnes says that the department is looking into adding a review committee to assist in deciding what kind of weapons and force would be used on campus, and will ensure any changes are up to legal standards.