Arming URI Campus Police: Bullet Points

On April 4, the URI campus was locked down for a couple of hours after, as the Providence Journal states it “people in a lecture hall said they heard someone say they had a gun. Police found no gun or a shooter.”

Today, there was a forum at URI about arming campus police. In his invitation to the event President David Dooley wrote:

Chafee Hall under siege, April 4, 2013

Our desire is to have an informed dialogue about the issue on May 8. Our goal is NOT to attempt to reach consensus, but to assist our community in developing a thorough understanding of the issue and its implications. If additional forums are needed to foster broader dialogue about approaches, strategies, or potential improvements, we will arrange for such meetings.

Does that not sound a little condescending? The timing is a tad unsettling too: this is a time when students are taking finals and faculty are desperately trying to wrap up the semester. Oh, cranky old me, I must be just having a really bad day! However that may be, I attended the forum and made the following points:

  • I am concerned about the preliminary report about an individual who allegedly had a gun in URI’s Chafee Social Science Center on April 4, 2013.
  • Why am I concerned?
    • Here is the essence of the report: police entered Chafee with a five-minute delay caused by the fact that campus police is unarmed and had to wait for armed assistance.
    • To solve this “problem” URI will spend $300,000 per year to arm campus police.
  • I am concerned because the report provides little more than violence- and fear-enhancing recommendations.
  • The report fails to acknowledge that fear on the part of armed police leads to the shooting of unarmed people, often people of color.
  • The report ignores that the UK has an unarmed police force and a fire arm fatality rate that is 40 times lower per capita than in the US.
  • Campus security should be based on nonviolent conflict resolution. Not a dime in the proposal for that approach. Why were the experts of our own Center for Nonviolence & Peace Studies at URI not consulted? [Here is a link to Paul Bueno de Mesquita's, the center's director, input for this forum.]
  • Do we really need to spend $300,000 per year just to avoid a five minute delay?  A delay is often good; it allows for a considered response rather than one dictated by panic.
  • I am concerned about the proposed solutions; they are symptomatic of a hysterical, hyper-violent society.
  • I am concerned about solutions that seem to come straight from the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council of which President Dooley is a member. [What I did not mention at the forum is that Chancellor Linda Katehi was on this very same council when she infamously had Occupy UC Davis students pepper sprayed in the fall of 2011.]
  • This proposal is an agenda looking for an opportunity, all in the spirit of never letting a good crisis go to waste.

More was said at the forum, but not much time was left after two URI administrators had claimed fifteen minutes “developing a thorough understanding of the issue and its implications,” leaving the rest of the hour for Jane and John Campus Public.

Also the Board of Education has been talking about arming campus police. The board had as one of agenda items of today’s meeting: “Establish a Policy Enabling URI, RIC and CCRI to Make Individual Institutional Decisions to Arm Campus Police.”  See also House Bill Number 6005, which is on tomorrow’s agenda of the House Committee on Judiciary.

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Peter Nightingale is a theoretical physicist and teaches at the University of Rhode Island. He strives to leave behind a more just and peaceful, sustainable post-capitalist world for future generations, and his children and grandchildren in particular.

20 responses to “Arming URI Campus Police: Bullet Points”

  1. leftyrite

    “an agenda looking for an opportunity”
    Well-expressed, particularly because it is so precisely true.

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  2. Johnnie

    What happened at URI to signal a lockdown has never been explained and it won’t be. According to sketchy press accounts (the norm), a female student was startled by a male student and she screamed . No one was accosted or physically threatened. Nothing whatsoever justified a campus-wide lockdown.
    So where did this manufactured story about a weapon come from? Someone needs to ask the administration to explain why an order was given to lock down the  campus. And how they plan to prevent this in the future, unnecessarily frightening parents, students and faculty. 
    A crisis was manufactured and has now become a pretext for beefing up ‘security.’
    The state Board of Education is once again debating whether or not to arm campus police; and commencement at URI may be held indoors.
    According to The Journal, the So. Kingston police showed up within 5 minutes of the incident. However, the politico Robert Weygand told the BOE that “five minutes for any child is five minutes too long.” Just like Gist, what is uppermost in Weygand’s mind is – “the children.” 
    Who believes this sh*t? If I were a cynic, I would ask who is behind the curtain.
    So they want to put weapons in the hands of people who see imaginary guns and create a campus-wide panic?
    What’s next: establishing perimeters, claymores, berms, concertina wire and checkpoints? 
    And the beat goes on. 

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  3. cailin rua

    Obviously, someone wants this very badly and the most pathetic excuse is enough.  Be a cynic.  

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  4. DogDiesel

    “Obviously, someone wants this very badly and the most pathetic excuse is enough.”
    College Campus Shootings: 1-In-4 Campus Police Not Prepared To Handle Active Shooter

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    1. cailin rua

      Remember Charles Whitman?  How many years ago was his shooting rampage on the University of Texas campus?  If that weren’t a strong enough reason to arm the police on R I campuses then, why is it now.  There something else going on here.  

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      1. DogDiesel

        “Remember Charles Whitman?  How many years ago was his shooting rampage on the University of Texas campus?  If that weren’t a strong enough reason to arm the police on R I campuses then, why is it now.  There something else going on here.” 
        That was almost 50 years ago and was the catalyst for the development of the modern police swat team. The University of Texas now has and armed police force. Are you suggesting that we should wait until someone dies before arming the police? About ten years ago, three gunman tried to rob a marijuana dealer on the ‘closed’ campus of Bryant University. Fortunately none of their PSO’s confronted the gunman. But what if they had? URI is an open campus. Anyone thinking that firearms aren’t being brought on campus is living in a fantasy world. 
        By the way, arming URI police is nothing new. The officers have been asking for this for almost 20 years. These are academy trained police officers. They need to meet the same standards as municipal police officers.

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        1. cailin rua

          I have a feeling, based on some of what you have written, that we have a different point of view on most subjects.  I only skimmed the link you provided the other day.  The author has involvements with Harvey Sivergate which I found interesting. I will have to go back and read it a little more in depth.  

          I am going to have to check later but I thought the development of S.W.A.T. teams had to do with an action involving the United Farmworkers Union.  I remember when the t v show promoting S.W.A.T. teams appeared in the seventies.  I found it outrageous that these para military forces who are used against our own citizens chose to name themselves S.W.A.T. as if their human targets were like common house flies.  I think Howard Zinn probably wrote profusely about dehumanization before the Viet Nam war but I haven’t had a chance to get around to reading what he had to say. Law enforcement and the military have an extreme problem with dehumanization of targets, who are actually human beings.  Dehumanization is used to justify their actions and now in the age of depersonalized video game warfare, the problems are even more pronounced, to understate the situation.

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          1. DogDiesel

            As for the name SWAT, many departments didn’t like that acronym either and adopted other names for their teams. As for the dehumanization, I can’t speak for the military because I never served. As a hostage negotiator, I can tell you that there’s no dehumanization. The entry teams are a last resort and they have a job to do if I failed. Some of those officers are your neighbors, family men and women, liberals and conservatives, and at the end of the day, just want to go home to their families.

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            1. cailin rua

              “As a hostage negotiator, I can tell you that there’s no dehumanization.”
              I didn’t know you were a hostage negotiator.  I would like to believe there isn’t any dehumanization taking place in the various departments across the country.  You are on the inside.  You would know better than me.  That is not my perception, however.  
              Most of us know police.  I come from a very large Rhode Island family.  I have many relatives who were in law enforcement.  Some of them I have a lot of respect for.  Stories about our current State Police Superintendent going under cover to infiltrate the mafia demonstrate a lot of courage.  I remember reading about that in the Journal in amazement.  I just read the account on the State Police Command Staff page, though. I noticed this part of the account which I hadn’t remembered:

              ” These investigations led to hundreds of arrest, seizures of dozens of vehicles, pounds of cocaine, marijuana, various other narcotic drugs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in US currency.”


              Contained in that one sentence is so much implication.  Forget about the drugs that were seized, look at the amount of currency and the property seizures.  The “War On Drugs” has been very profitable for law enforcement and has had a corrupting influence on it.  There is so much wrong with asset forfeiture but  I’ve veered away from the topic at hand and don’t have the time to go into everything I think is wrong with it.  

              There is a former police officer who writes for the Providence Daily Dose who writes examining what the role of law enforcement is currently and what kinds of changes should be made.  She makes a lot of sense to me.  We need more people who have had experience in law enforcement to be more self critical.  The police, however, only serve those who write the laws and that is where the real problems lie.  I will always remember the profound changes in the small town I grew up in after Nixon was elected.  The relationship between the police and the public changed dramatically after that.  The police don’t seem to be here to serve and protect the citizens but to simply keep them in line.  Things have gotten much worse since 9/11.  Everyone is suspect.  That isn’t the way things should be.

              If it is necessary for the police at URI, RIC, etc. to be armed, it is a necessary evil and should be understood that way.  The media has whipped up a lot of hysteria based on a false alarm, though.  That’s what I find most disturbing of all, the way the news media whips the population up into a bunch of frenzied lemmings.  We saw that with the campaign for pension “reform” just recently, now this.

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  5. Sledge Hammer

    There isn’t a single comment in this article based in reality.
    The “left” is so paranoid of firearms and is so steadfastly desperate to rid the earth of them to bring about the long dreamed of Utopian society they long for, that they are now turning a blind eye to reality and insisting that URI is somehow exempt of any possibility of suffering an active shooter or lunatic with a blade weapon running rampant slaying people willy nilly.
    In a situation like that seconds matter and the authors insistence that waiting 5 minutes is “good” is ABSURD!  
    There is no coherent reason to object to arming URI campus police.  They are the “first responders.”  If the objection is to cost then the only sane alternative based upon reality is to allow concealed carry, which is a great force multiplier and even the University of Penn now recognizes and allows.  
    The argument that England’s police not using firearms is ridiculously outdated.  Even they had to come to their senses and arm their police.  They are, in fact, ARMED!
    The comment regarding “fearful police” arriving on scene and shooting “people of color” “often” is so racist it’s laughable.  The reader is left with the idea that responding police are white and “fearful” facing “people of color,” which makes them lose their minds and shoot first, ask questions later.  Shockingly ignorant.
    Let me ask all of you this:  What makes URI exempt from the very real possibility of an active shooter or blade wielding lunatic?  Haven’t recent events sufficiently proven to you that armed resistance to an armed freak is the ONLY viable solution?  Can any of you take even a single recent event and coherently explain how 5 MORE minutes delay would be GOOD??!!    
    The naivete and complete detachment from reality expressed in this article illustrates why the left and right are so far apart and locked in this knock down drag out battle of “us vs. them…”   

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  6. leftyrite

    Let’s not slay anyone willy-nilly. I think that we can all agree upon that.
    What concerns me is the combination of unemployment numbers with the corresponding desire of rightwingers and their most pampered group, the police, to plug a cop into any available social opening.
    It’s not good for the idea of a free society in any sense, and it does not do anything meaningful to protect anyone. Rather, it enhances the opportunites for frightened people to shoot each other.
    Mental health is a huge issue that needs to be taken seriously, but, everywhere we look, we see articles and essays about funds drying up.  But not for the cops.
    Too much of a police presence is not good for the populace and not good for the police. Let’s use the technologies that we have already, particularly phone technologies, in coordination. That would take some thinking and some doing. Some spirit of inventiveness, of wanting to be innovative about things instead of just pissed off and eager to “solve” things immediately with guns.
    The sight of a permanent armed presence on any campus should be taken for what it is, a sign of the suppression and monitoring of the true functions and purposes of the university.
    But, talk won’t cut it. Intellectual fortitude and resistance will.
    Want to wave the flag?
    Wave the flag of the Republic (for which it stands) for freedom to learn and to organize against fear, chaos, and the fog of amateur war. 

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  7. leftyrite

    …that leftyrite.
    I love that guy.

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  8. Johnnie

         I ‘m not against people owning weapons. I know that taking away semi-automatics from people will not stop incidents like Sandyhook. I’m just against having weapons on college campuses – period. Statistically, the likelihood of an overreaction or shooting is raised exponentially. Colleges should be and have always been insular and protected places, an extended adolescence and refuge from the insanity of everyday life.
         If the campus police are armed, it raises the possibility of weapons being misused tenfold. A suicidal student might be shot dead unnecessarily, or a relatively innocuous incident might escalate into the use of deadly force. Remember Kent State and Jackson State? What happened to the MIT guard and his gun?
        The only lunatics I worry about are people like the UCal Davis police officer who enthusiastically pepper sprayed students sitting down in protest. 
        You want to give this guy a gun?
         “What makes URI exempt from the very real possibility of an active shooter or blade wielding lunatic”.
         Nothing! But the chance of an active shooter on campus is statistically minuscule, it has never happened in a hundred years. The likelihood of you being struck by lightening is greater. In the very unlikely event of an active shooter, let the regular police with more training, body armor and automatic weapons handle it. 
         When does the militarization of this society stop? The sleepiest towns in this country have SWAT teams. Even US/Mexican border guards are shooting people. Is this the kind of world we want to live in?
         Everything in America about power – and ultimately violence.  We not only tolerate it, as long as it is directed against others, but we are entertained by it. The hunt for Tsarnaev reminded me of  “Running Man”. 
         The police shoot unarmed people all the time, you just don’t read about it. The only police shootings you hear about are when people fight back. And you want to give police prerogatives, powers and lethal weapons to even more people?
          I don’t want to disarm you; but at the same time I don’t want to start arming people in places that should be sane and safe. I don’t believe weapons on campus would make anyone safer.
          Interestingly, at the NRA convention there were no weapons allowed. Why? According to their theory, everyone being armed prevents violence. So why did they wisely outlaw a concealed carry? Explain!
          I rest my case.

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    1. cailin rua


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    2. DogDiesel

      Johnnie Conspiracy Theory,
      You have to go back 40+ years to find an instance where police and/or the National Guard fired on unarmed students? Policing standards have been modernized exponentially since then. That does nothing for your argument. The MIT officer was a trained police officer who was ambushed sitting in his car. He never had a chance to get his gun out of the holster. How does that fit your argument? ‘I just don’t like it’ is not a valid argument.

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  9. DogDiesel

    URI police investigate report of an armed robbery

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  10. Johnnie

    Why did the students wait almost 18 hours to report that the people who robbed them had a weapon? Read the comment in the story in The Journal. It happened on Sunday and was reported today?
    As has been said here, the people who run things want the cops at URI armed. They will find a pretext for doing so.
    I’ll bet they never find the perps.

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    1. DogDiesel

      Gleaning information from comments to breaking news in the Projo may explain your propensity toward conspiracy theories.

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  11. cailin rua

    Even the Cato Institute has questions:
    “The point of the quote is to focus people on sources of mortality society-wide, because this focus can guide public policy efforts at reducing death. (Thus, the number is not a product of the base rate fallacy.) In my opinion, too many people are still transfixed by terrorism . . . ” 

    and out in Aurora, Co. a student was shot by a security guard when the gun accidentally went off while he was putting it into the glove compartment of his car while giving the student a ride home.  

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  12. nationalsecurityguard

    No one was accosted or physically threatened by anyone. Nothing whatsoever justified a campus-wide lock-down. So where did this manufactured story about a weapon come from? Someone needs to ask the administration to explain why an order was given to lock down the campus. And how they plan to prevent this in the future, unnecessarily frightening parents, students and university faculty.
    event security guards

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