By Nancy Chan and Otto Pippenger
Although City College’s Participatory Governance Council (PGC) voted 7-6 on March 20 in favor of supporting arming campus police with firearms, a concrete decision has not been reached.
The original agenda was neither announced nor informative, and simply named “Public Safety,” which caused it to escape notice. Concerned groups such as the Associated Students Executive Council (ASEC) and the Save CCSF Coalition did not weigh in during the original vote.
Disapproval was voiced by the American Federation of Teachers 2121 on April 5. They stated “the fact that our police have been able to keep our community safe without guns for the last many decades is a fact that should be celebrated and honored, and should serve as a model for other schools.”
The arming of City College Campus Police has been an issue Chief Andre Barnes has been in favor of for some time, especially after last year’s armed kidnapping attempt at Rosenberg Library.
As of the March 2 PGC meeting, Steven Healy with the campus safety research firm recommended the arming of campus police based on his firm’s study of the school but “strongly recommended the department work on development of policies, hire more staff, implement comprehensive Plan for Unbiased Policing, and implement body-worn cameras before transitioning to having firearms.”
City College is atypical but not unique in having an unarmed police force.
Currently City College and Pasadena City College are the only two community colleges out of the 113 in California with sworn officers, otherwise known as peace officers- the official state titles given to police who possess non-lethal weapons.
There have been 558 gun incidents in American schools during the 2016-2017 school year already and while City College has avoided serious gun violence for the most part, members of the school governance and community alike remain divided on whether or not armed police will decrease the danger firearms pose to our campus.
The San Francisco Community College Police Department (SFCCPD) and City College’s campus police has each officer outfitted with one baton and one canister of pepper spray around their belts.
However, Police Chief Barnes remains in agreement with the PGC’s dominant vote.
“Based on our job responsibilities, I’m in favor of offering understanding on the use of force and accountability, of having a campus review commission so people have input in our training,” Chief Barnes said.
“And things like tasers, body cameras and firearms. These things are standard in our industry; it’s not like we’re asking for anything new.”
Barnes aims for a balance between the safety of civilian and police life. Throughout the years, different lethal weapons have been seized by the SFCCPD.
In 2011, a shotgun rifle with 21 separate shells and two hunting knives were taken from a single car trunk. In 2015, a student was caught with seven knives and two handguns.
“Officers are unsafe going into certain calls unarmed, so we have to look at it holistically,” Barnes said. “We haven’t had any people killed by pure luck—it’s only been luck, not plans. At the end of the day, you should outfit your police department with the tools they need to do their job.”
Another PGC meeting will be held on May 18 to allow for more discussion from the public.