When the MCLA Board of Trustees voted ten to one to arm campus safety in Feb. 2012, it was hotly debated, going against 90 percent of faculty and 67 percent of students who were against it, The Beacon reported at the time. Today, campus opinion has greatly changed.
According to a non-scientific survey The Beacon put out, of 175 survey takers 100 strongly agreed with arming campus with lethal firearms (57.14 percent), 16 (9.14 percent) agreed, 15 (8.57 percent) disagreed, 38 (21.71 percent) strongly disagreed, with only six people being impartial.
“It is a matter of safety for the community that they have to appropriate tools to respond to potential lethal threats to our community members,” one survey taker described.
When asked about arming campus safety by non-lethal means, a slim majority of survey takers disagreed: 54 survey takers strongly disagreed (30.86 percent), 42 disagreed (24 percent), 29 agreed with arming the campus police by non-lethal means (16.57 percent) and 29 strongly disagreed. When the strongly agree and disagree categories are combined: 96 survey takers disagreed with non-lethal means (54.85 percent) and 58 agreed (33.14 percent). 21 survey takers were indifferent.
“While I don’t think that the campus police should carry missile launchers I think that them having weapons for the purpose of protection is incredibly important,” a survey taker said. “This would require more intense checks prior to hiring or providing the weapons, obviously.”
“The campus police should have non-lethal weapons to protect themselves in dangerous situations,” another survey taker said. “But should not have the equipment to easily and — potentially recklessly — end a student’s life.”
However, the College is far from a consensus, as MCLA Faculty Association President Graziana Ramsden alluded to.
“I am still convinced that arming campus police is a mistake since there is no crime on this campus that would warrant that, and our annual Clery Report offers sufficient evidence,” Ramsden said. “In addition, it is shameful that we have Admissions events with campus police tabling in full SWAT gear, which is unnecessarily intimidating and sends the wrong message. I understand safety is important but the militarization of law enforcement is a problem we should address with campus officials, and request they look seriously into the message armed police officers send on an academic campus at a time of social change.”
Others, such as senior Taurus Londoño, expressed gratitude towards public safety. Londoño, who lived just a few blocks from campus, experienced a string of incidents beginning with a break-in at his apartment in which public safety assisted him, one as recent as November of last year.
“I genuinely felt that my life was in serious danger, and I was greatly comforted by the calm reassurance and compassion of an armed campus police officer,” Londoño said. “I spent much of that night at Public Safety. I am absolutely convinced that public safety officers must be armed in order to protect our fellow students on campus.”
When asked if they ever felt uncomfortable around a campus police officer because they were armed, 138 survey takers said no (78.86 percent), but 37 people said yes (21.14 percent). Of the takers that felt uncomfortable, many shared their stories.
“I’ve been profiled because of my appearance,” one survey taker said. Another survey taker responded, “It seems to make them more aggressive, even over small stuff.” Other takers expressed their discomfort when officers have reached for their weapons.
“Sometimes just walking around they have their hands on their belt, and it’s a little unsettling, as an African-American,” one survey taker said. “But I do understand that it is protocol.”