History repeats itself at Evergreen with the discussion of arming our campus police with semi-automatic rifles. The student group, Police Awareness and Student Safety (PASS), has created a petition in support of arming campus police in reaction to the recent number of mass shootings across the country.
On January 28, several members of the Police Community Review Board (PSCRB), faculty of the college, and interested students met to discuss the petition.
The meeting began with a presentation made by Robb Anthony and Omar Noman, two members of PASS. Anthony and Noman brought up various points to the potential benefits of providing assault weapons for the police on campus including the monetary cost of rifles and increased response time to a school shooting.
“Our concerns are towards an active shooter in a high density area and our police are not equipped to face that individual,” Anthony explained during his presentation. The presentation estimated rifles would “cost each student approximately $3.11” and would decrease the response time it takes for police to engage a student shooter.
These facts were quoted from the National Center for Victims of Crime and a Secret Service report on preventing school shootings. While concluding his presentation, Anthony stated, “We cannot continue this ‘bury our heads in the sand’ policy.”
When the floor was opened to questions and comments, the direction of the meeting shifted to the history of Evergreen and firearms. Prior to 1994, Evergreen employed unarmed campus security. In 1984, a female student was shot by another student and by 1994, Evergreen began “employing fully commissioned police officers with a limited arming policy.”
Paul Gallegos, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity Affairs, was a student at Evergreen during the time of the school shooting in 1984. “A rifle would not have made any difference [in this situation],” Gallegos said during the meeting. “An argument could be made that the absence of weapons saved lives.”
Gallegos further explained that the shooter surrendered his weapon to unarmed Evergreen security with no other fatalities. “People are using the scenario of fear to generate more fear and generate more violence.”
In 2009, Evergreen police requested semi-automatic rifles from the college. The proposal was met with mixed reviews, as shown in a survey conducted by the Police Services Community Review Board between February 23 and March 9.
With a turnout of 600 students, staff, and faculty, it revealed that over 70% of those students opposed the proposal, while 80% of staff approved. 60% of faculty opposed the petition while 40% approved. In April of 2009, Art Costantino, the Vice President of Student Affairs and the PSCRB recommended against purchasing the rifles and the proposal was not passed.
Some students at the meeting had suggestions for alternatives to buying rifles that could potentially increase student safety in the event of a shooting. “I feel that there is no threat to me on campus,” said Carlos Sersermeno, an Evergreen student. “I would rather see investments in bullet proof glass. Increasing armaments on campus will only convince violent students to procure more weapons.” Other students suggested more funding should be put towards school counseling services.
From a tactical standpoint, Chief of Police Ed Sorger believes that semi-automatic rifles could be beneficial if a school shooting were to occur.
“I’m not concerned about a deeper meaning to this issue,” Chief Sorger commented after the meeting. “I’m talking about stopping a shooter from a greater, safer distance with more accuracy. Your chances of stopping that kind of event are much greater [with assault rifles]. We want to give the best service we can to the community.”
Costantino attended the meeting and said that his office will not be undertaking that review until further notice. Anthony responded to this, saying, “The next appropriate measure is to go to the Board of Trustees.” Anthony expects the Board to be more receptive to the petition.
Article By Ray Still
Photos & Infographic By Kelli Tokos