LEMAP suggests arming campus officers

The Public Safety Task Force will bring a recommendation to the next Board of Governors meeting asking that the Public Safety officers should be armed. Missouri Western is the only public university in the state that employs commissioned officers that do not carry guns. Beth Wheeler, Director of External Relations, spearheaded the task force that collected the information from outside entities such as the Loan Executive Management Assistance Program (LEMAP) of the International Association of College Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), who visited campus and made recommendations to improve the safety of campus. “It started because Public Safety wanted to provide a safer atmosphere on campus,” Wheeler said. In the fall of 2005 the Department of Public Safety submitted a grant requesting funding to get an external review of their policies, procedures and tactics with the purpose to make the campus safer. After the grant was approved, the Public Safety Task force was constructed, consisting of Wheeler; and students such as SGA President Natalie Bailey; SGA VP Luke Herrington; NAACP President Jasmine Pasley; with faculty members Kip Wilson, Criminal Justice; Michael Speros, Director of Residential Life; and Trevor Brown, Public Safety officer. Along with the recommendation that Public Safety carry weapons, the people from LEMAP also suggested that officers receive additional training in cross-cultural communications, beyond the minimum required to become a commissioned police officer. The additional training is aimed to mend the apparent rift between the DPS and minorities on campus. “A lot of the issues that the minority community and DPS are having are usually more communication problems. Sometimes it’s an issue of stereo typing and the stigma that is carried with being a minority on this campus,” Jasmine Pasley, president of Missouri Western’s NAACP chapter, said. “It’s still a hot topic, but I think that they’re having a better understanding, and maybe something can be rectified with communication.” Not only will arming the public safety provide them with tools needed to respond to a threat, it will cut back on DPS’s reliance onthe St. Joseph Police Department during critical situations.  “I hope it means we can stand alone and be a community without having to call in our neighbors all the time to come in and assist us,” Wheeler said. Wheeler went on to explain that students are not the threat. The threat comes from people outside of campus that see the community as easy prey. “Many of the encounters with weapons and (fighting) is not with western students, it’s with others that come on to campus who think it’s a nice place to cruise, or to offer you items for sale,” Wheeler said. The Public Safety Task Force will be holding open meetings throughout the week for students and faculty to learn more about their findings and voice an opinion. The meetings are as follows: • Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 9:30 a.m. –Open Staff/ Administrations Forum Spratt 110 • Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. –Open Faculty Forum Spratt 110 • Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. –Open Student/Residence Council Forum in Commons • Wednesday, Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. –Open Staff/Administrator Forum in Spratt 110 • Thursday, Oct. 4 at noon –Open Student Forum in Eder 208 • Thursday, Oct. 4 at 4 p.m. –Open Faculty/Faculty Senate Forum in Blum 220 • Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 1:30 p.m. –Staff Association Meeting in Spratt 208

Should MWSU arm Public Safety Officers?

Pro or Con: .... Pro:  It’s time to conquer fear and face reality, arm the officers Charlene Divino The argument against arming campus security can only be attributed to fear. There is no rational or factual argument against it.   I don’t believe in buying into media fed mass hysteria. An environment of fear isn’t beneficial to anybody. Unfortunately, the world is unpredictable and you can’t anticipate where danger is lurking. The only solution is the happy medium, a realistic perception of the world around you.   It’s naive to assume nothing could ever occur on Missouri Western campus. It’s this kind of false sense of security that leaves us most vulnerable. People don’t think to themselves their campus is next. It isn’t the nature of tragedy. In arming our security, we must face an uncomfortable truth. We are not invincible, and our lives are not exempt from the possibility of danger.. If I found myself threatened by a person with a weapon, it would be a joke to send security to save me with pepper spray. I’d also like to clarify a popular misconception; Missouri Western doesn’t have “rent-a-cops” or mall level security. The Western department of public safety is a recognized law enforcement agency that employs police officers commissioned through the Missouri department of public safety. These are certified police officers that can legally carry guns every moment of the day, except while at work defending students. Of all the Missouri universities with commissioned police officers, we are the only school that chooses not to arm our most immediate asset. The result has been 204 calls from Missouri Western DPS to Saint Joseph Police Department for back up in situations they are trained to handle.  We have police officers on campus, but all we allow them to do is give tickets. Maybe the reputation security has earned for overreacting is a product of their vulnerability. With the responsibility to assess a situation and determine the possibility of violence upon arriving, their hand is forced. They must err on the side of caution, and call for backup rather then risk a situation escalating beyond their control. As officers with the right and ability to bear arms, we are denying them the necessary tools to perform their jobs. As the students, we should put the full force of our support in arming our campus. This is for our own benefit. We aren’t contemplating arming student interns to use other students for target practice. We are safeguarding our campus by taking necessary measures. It’s easy for us as students to declare that guns are an unnecessary presence. But we are not responsible for the safety of the student body, or required to be in the line of fire while protecting them. Like it or not, as a college MWSU is obligated to take every precaution in defending us. As students’ would we really accept anything less? Con:  Guns on campus while thought provoking, unnecessary Addison Ford I think that Missouri Western is a safe campus, and I don’t think many people would disagree with that.  This is thanks in part to Western’s effective Department of Public Safety, and our officers are good at what they do. However, with the Virginia Tech tragedy during spring semester, some crazy stuff is going down at Public Safety, they now need to be armed. As in, all commissioned Public Safety officers wish to carry guns. And the scary thing is, it just might happen. In March of 2006, Western hired a team from LEMAP (Loaned Executive Management Assistance Program) to try and improve Western public safety and their effectiveness at handling incidents that occur on campus. Some will argue that since the formation of this committee predated the Virginia Tech shooting by more than a year that this would have happened anyway. But now, those for guns on campus have much more fear to play off of to convince people who may have been against it before April of this year. Of the many recommendations that both the LEMAP team and Western’s own Task Force have made, this is by far the craziest, and most unnecessary, of them all. At Destination Western Freshman Orientation sessions this summer, where I served as an Orientation Leader, public safety even went so far as to add that officers at Western “Aren’t armed. Yet.” during their presentations. Excuse me? If I had been a freshman at one of those sessions, I would have been horrified. Actually, as a sophomore, I was horrified. Call me an insane liberal, but I don’t think that just because our public safety officers are “real” police officers, they automatically get access to a bright and shiny .45.  I just hope that I’m not the only student that feels this way. Western officers have NEVER been armed. And you know what? None of them have ever been shot, either. Also, we’ve never had any assault-rifle toting madman go around and blow people away, either. I’m not saying that the possibility isn’t there, but we’ve got plenty of gun-toting St. Joseph PD to take care of that. To me, higher education is a peaceful atmosphere that is really its own community. If that is true, Western is a safe one, and I think that bad things could happen if Public Safety had guns. This week, there are open forums for students to voice their opinions about this thought-provoking issue. No matter which way you feel, you should attend one of the forums and let your voice be heard. Even if you believe they should be loaded up with ammunition, go and discuss it with others that feel the same way. This is a topic that affects students directly, so students should affect this decision directly, and it is admirable that student’s opinions were even considered by holding these forums. 

Black Student Union fight

The Black Student Union threw a welcome back party last Saturday night that could be providing an extended hangover.   The event, which was attended by over 400 people, ended earlier than scheduled after off duty St. Joseph Police Officers, hired by the BSU for security purposes, used pepper spray to control a crowd that they felt was getting too rowdy.     While the BSU has not been punished specifically for the altercation, administration has suspended all organized events that begin after 9:30 p.m. for an indefinite amount of time. Cindy Heider, interim assistant provost and vice president of academic and student affairs,  felt that suspending the events was the cautious approach. Black Student Union fight Pat McGuire “We just want to make sure that events are safe and enjoyable for the students,” Heider said. “No one did anything wrong, we just need to make sure we do things a little better.”    The actual events that happened in the gymnasium of the Looney Complex that evening depend on whom you ask. President and founder of the Black Student Union, Moses D. Fields, Jr., found himself in the midst of the controversy and claimed that it was not a fight, there were no punches thrown. “There was an altercation in the gym. it was a yelling match. It was not a fist fight,” said Fields. “Before anybody threw a punch the students broke it up. It was the first time in a long time that we have had a late night event that did not have a fist fight.” According to the incident report filed by Cpl. Trevor Brown, the altercation included close to 50 people fighting, using hands and fists as weapons. “We observed a large crowd, approximately 50 subjects, gathered at the west side (of the gym.) The large crowd contained several subjects fighting,” Brown said. Fields’ point of view was that the majority of the students in the “fight” were actually keeping the few individuals from fighting. “Four individuals out of 400 were a bad seed,” Fields said. “I feel like that’s a good number. Everything that we try to bestow, as well as the other minority organizations, is that we have to be accountable for ourselves, you have to account for each other and keep each other in line, and that’s exactly what the crowd did.” Jon Kelley, Director of Public Safety, said that due to the darkness of the building he could not personally tell if there were punches thrown or not. He was present when the altercation was resolved. “The St. Joseph Police Department officers were closest to the incident in the gymnasium and warned the large group to break up the fight and to disperse, more than once, or they would use pepper spray to disperse the crowd,” Kelley said. “The crowd failed to disperse and pepper spray was deployed by the SJPD officers, above the crowd, as a means of dispersing the crowd and minimizing the potential for further confrontation or injury.”

Western mourns

The dust of Virginia Tech has settled, however, the minds of students, parents, faculty and administrators across the nation have not. The questions, what ifs and hypothetical situations are mounting. Concerns over safety policies and security procedures for college campuses are being called into question across the nation.

VA Tech

Missouri Western’s Dan Nicoson, vice president of university advancement, is confident that if a situation similar to Virginia Tech’s with an armed gunman on campus happened here at Western, it would be well handled. “We maintain a professional police force 24/7; they are going to do what crime scene expectations are and what our emergency safety plan calls for,” Nicoson said. Aside from just safety, many questions have been asked about the communication system used to alert the students at Virginia Tech. Many commentators and students feel that e-mail alone is not an accurate way to inform students of possible life-threatening situations. Jonathon Kelley, director of public safety, said that there are many ways to communicate with students whether it is through e-mail or radio for the commuter students. “Our initial steps would be to get e-mail out,” Kelley said. “It is the quickest way to get information out to a large group of people at one time. Also, the public safety vehicles have public address capabilities on three of the squad cars, so in a isolated area, that would be one of the tools we could use in our department.” Kelley predicts that systems will be set up so that campuses can plug into student’s cell phones and send text messages or voice messages to large groups of students. Nicoson said that campuses will continue to assess communication options. Another question would be if Virginia Tech’s situation would have been different if better communication systems were in place. “It might have improved, but wouldn’t have solved the issue,” said Robert Mazur, a Western senior. Right now the campus has procedures in place for alerting students about dangers on campus include e-mail, a phone tree and public address systems on three public safety vehicles. If a danger were to happen on campus, Nicoson stated what he believed would be the chain of events. “Jon Kelley would call his supervisor, Ron Olinger, of financial planning and administration,” Nicoson said. “Ron would then determine if the president [James Scanlon] needs to be notified and probably either me or Kristi Hill because of the communication needs. And I am sure he would notify the Provost [Joseph Bragin].” As for overall security, Nicoson and Kelley agreed that nothing is totally preventable, and what happened at Virginia Tech could happen anywhere. Kelley made suggestions about what students can do for self-protection. “Be aware of your surroundings, be aware of people and what is going on,” Kelley said. He also stated that if something were to happen, students should get in a room, lock it and remain quiet until law enforcement is in the building.

VA Tech

Kelley said that public safety’s response would depend on the situation at hand. When dealing with a student who is questionable and a possible threat to others on campus, Kelley said that various offices work together to solve the problem. “The Public Safety Center, the Counseling Center and the Dean of Students office work closely together to address issues of behavior and inappropriate behavior at times,” Kelley said. Mazur said he is confident as to the safety on Western’s campus. “I think it’s [Western] fairly safe,” Mazur said. “Public Safety is active on campus.”