The News Service
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Brown University will move ahead with plans to arm its police officers
Brown University has decided to move forward with plans to equip its campus police officers with firearms. The decision will allow the University’s Department of Public Safety to undertake officer training and policy development initiatives that could lead to the issuance of firearms to campus police officers. (Distributed December 1, 2003; see also News Release.)
Under what circumstances will Brown’s campus police officers begin carrying weapons?
The Department of Public Safety (DPS) will spend some time instructing its officers in use-of-force policies, training them on simulators and in classrooms, and developing the necessary policies and procedures that will ensure the safe deployment and effective administrative control of firearms. A decision on departmental readiness will be made by the president and the senior administration.
Why is the University taking this step now? Is there strong support for arming police?
More than a decade ago, the community recognized that current criminal behavior in the area placed unarmed officers and other community members at unacceptable risk. In the early 1990s, the University adopted a policy that does not allow campus police officers to intervene in crimes where a weapon is involved until Providence Police have responded. This “disengagement policy” meant that Brown police were not available when members of the campus community needed them most.
Two years ago, a consulting group led by William J. Bratton, now chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, reviewed campus security and strongly recommended against continuation of the disengagement policy. The Bratton Report supported the decision to move forward with plans to arm officers. While the community is not unanimous on the question, there is broad support among faculty, staff and students and their families, including editorial support by the student newspaper and endorsement by several student leadership organizations.
Did the University make this decision because crime is more prevalent now?
Statistically, the incidence of crime varies from year to year. The decision to arm officers is being made on the basis of what will best promote the long-term physical security of the campus community and the safety of officers responsible for that security.
Is the Department of Public Safety prepared to supervise an armed police force?
Brown’s top four senior command officers have carried arms and have supervised armed police officers at other police departments prior to beginning their work at Brown. During the preparation phase, policies and procedures will be developed and refined to provide for the closest possible supervision of campus police officers who are authorized to carry firearms.
Are there alternatives to firearms and deadly force?
Officers currently have a continuum of strategies available, ranging from verbal persuasion techniques to hand control, physical restraint (handcuffs, for example) and baton. Non-lethal weapons like the taser “stun gun” will be evaluated for possible use and could give officers a wider range of options in responding to possible criminal situations, but they cannot eliminate the need for firearms in the urban police setting. Brown’s use-of-force policy requires that “An officer should exhaust every available means ... before escalating to a more severe application of force.” Deadly force is the option of last resort.
Can the University do more to protect its police officers? Do they wear protective vests, for example?
The DPS requires all campus police officers and security officers to wear body armor (e.g., bullet-proof vests) and has had that mandatory policy in effect for several years.
The Brown community has more than 7,000 persons between the ages of 17 and 24. Shouldn’t that require special training?
Yes, and that training has been in place for a long time. While its policing responsibilities are similar to those of most municipal police forces, Brown’s DPS also has responsibilities within the University’s own disciplinary system. DPS officers work closely with University administrators, including various deans and the Office of Campus Life and Student Services, and have integrated peer counselors and other support personnel into their operating procedures. Brown’s DPS will continue to provide law enforcement and security services that are appropriate and responsive to the unique character of an academic community.
How will firearms affect issues of diversity and racial profiling?
The decision to move forward with plans to arm campus police officers is based partly on the conviction that all sectors of the Brown campus community will benefit from increased security measures. A substantial portion of the training program for campus police officers will involve workshops addressing sexual orientation, racial, ethnic and gender issues, including panel discussions with broadly diverse groups of students, faculty and staff. Nearly one-third of diversity training hours will be devoted to training in non-violent methods based on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The DPS training plans have been reviewed by faculty and administrators, including the associate provost and director of diversity, as well as by the executive director of the Governor’s Select Commission on Race and Police-Community Relations. Training – and other initiatives to enhance communications with the community – will be ongoing.
Are there provisions for civilian review?
The administration will establish a committee of faculty, staff and students to provide appropriate civilian review of officer actions.
How many police officers does Brown employ?
Brown’s Department of Public Safety includes 23 campus police officers and 10 supervising officers, all licensed and sworn, with full powers of arrest. Eight of those officers served as armed police officers at other police departments prior to beginning their work at Brown. The four top-ranking command officers in DPS have had significant experience in supervising armed police officers. The DPS also includes 18 security officers in addition to administrative staff and communications personnel.
What has Brown done to date to make the campus safer?
During the last two years, Brown has:
Does Brown have the authority to arm its police officers?
Yes. Rhode Island law permits duly appointed law enforcement officers to carry firearms. Brown’s police officers are trained, sworn, licensed and “duly appointed.” The Rhode Island attorney general’s office has confirmed that the state law does apply to Brown police officers.