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.

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