Committees & DTFs

Art Costantino Letter to the Community (1-8-03)

DATE: January 8, 2003


TO: Campus Community
FROM: Art Costantino

SUBJECT: Request to review current police services arming policy

During Fall quarter, I received a request from the Union that represents our classified employees (including our police officers) to allow our police officers to carry firearms 24 hours a day. It states in part:

"On behalf of the police officers of The Evergreen State College (TESC), the Washington Federation of State Employees requests the review of the police department's Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the adopted recommendations of the limited arming public Disappearing Task Force (DTF), and considerations for the implementation of the 24/7 police arming on campus.

The police officers of TESC request your support in addressing the issue of full-time arming. The overall safety for TESC students, faculty, staff, police and visitors are paramount in this request.

Presently, police officers, as covered in the SOP, are required to work under problematic and dangerous constraints. The limited arming constraints prevent the police officers from adequately protecting and serving the community on a 24-hour basis."

In what follows, I will provide a brief history of arming on campus and describe the steps that will be followed in responding to the request of the Union.

Prior to 1992, the college employed unarmed security officers. When a potentially violent situation occurred, our security personnel called the Thurston County Sheriff's Office, and the county's armed officers responded. In 1989, Labor & Industry (L&I) cited the college for providing unsafe working conditions for our public safety officers. In 1991, the college hired consultants on campus safety (Warrington & Assoc.) to provide an assessment of campus safety issues and chart a short- and long-term direction for security on campus. In their final report, Warrington & Assoc. described the state of relations between security officers and the campus, and made a number of recommendations regarding operating procedures, training and selection of officers, and suggested that the college issue guns to some of the officers. In 1992, the Board of Trustees decided the college would be better served by commissioned police officers that would possess the same powers as those of other police officers in the State. Safety officers who wished to be commissioned were required to attend the State Training Academy and meet other criteria established for police officers in the State of Washington. The Board also directed that officers obtain training beyond that provided at the academy to more effectively serve a college campus. The officers were trained in the State Academy on the use of firearms, but the Board of Trustees did not authorize the carrying of firearms.

From 1992-1995, the issue of arming our officers remained alive because of the continuation of violent incidents on campus, and the fact that Thurston County officers were often taking up to 20 minutes to respond to requests for assistance. In 1995, the reporting-lines for Police Services were changed from the Vice President for Finance and Administration to the Vice President for Student Affairs. In 1995, the college began an intense discussion about whether to arm our now commissioned officers. As part of the process, I was asked to make a recommendation to the President. To collect input from the campus, I sent a survey to faculty, staff and students. The responses indicated that 484 individuals supported some form of arming, while 482 opposed arming. We also held public forums to collect input (those who spoke at the forums were almost uniformly opposed to arming), visited students in residence halls to solicit opinions (these students slightly favored arming), and collected email and written messages. I also spoke with police experts from around the country. Ultimately, I recommended to the President that campus officers be given limited access to firearms. I made this recommendation because I believed the campus would be a better served by officers we trained and supervised, and who were familiar with our campus, rather than relying on Thurston County Sheriff officers during emergencies. The President at the time, Jane Jervis, agreed with my recommendations and forwarded them to the Board of Trustees. After a day of public hearings, the Board voted to provide our officers with limited access to firearms and approved my recommendation that a Disappearing Task Force (DTF) be convened to define how we would operationalize limited arming.

In the Spring of 1996, the President appointed a multi-constituent DTF to recommend to the President when, where and how campus police officers would have access to firearms, to recommend training and screening criteria for officers, and to outline the structure of a permanent review board that would review instances in which our police officers drew firearms. After consulting with the campus, the DTF recommended that police officers carry firearms in the evenings, when distant from their automobiles where the guns are secured in lock boxes, when providing security to public officials, when large amounts of money are transported, when ordered to do so by the Director of Police Services during dangerous time periods, and when making traffic stops. This constitutes our limited arming policy. The DTF recommended specific training on topics such as human relations, communications, and officer safety, in addition to that being provided by the state training academy. The DTF also called for the establishment of a Deadly Force Review Board to review incidents in which firearms or other deadly weapons were drawn, and a second community board to enhance communications between the police and other members of the campus, and to make recommendations about community safety. President Jervis approved the recommendations of the DTF in June of 1996. In October of 1997, the Union Management Committee, comprised of representatives of management and the Union, approved a 20-chapter set of Standard Operating Procedures for the Department of Police Services. In Fall of 1997, officers began to carry firearms on campus in accordance with the guidelines established by the DTF.

In the years from 1997 to the present, all of our permanent officers have attended the police services academy as part of their commissioning process, received additional trainings, and continue to operate under the guidelines established by the DTF. The Deadly Force Review Board was established, annually trained, and has been convened to review three incidents in which officers drew firearms. The Police Services Community Review Board was also established and currently meets monthly. Since 1997, there have been a number of dangerous situations that have required our officers to remain armed during daylight hours as provided in our policy. In the past year, the Union has raised concerns about what they see as difficulties in implementing our current policy and what they believe are safety issues with our current policy.

PROCESS

I will conduct a review as requested by the Union. In conducting this review, I will be guided by two questions. Is a change to 24-hour arming necessary? What has occurred since our limited arming policy was established that would cause us to change our policy? In conducting my review, I will seek advice from the Police Services Community Review Board. One of the duties of the this board is "To review and make recommendations concerning police department policies, procedures and programs." The Community Review Board is comprised of 2 faculty, 3 staff members and 3 students. The Director of Police Services and I serve as ex-officio, non-voting members of the Board. As part of its work on this issue, I will direct the Board to engage in campus-wide consultation. Specifically, I will ask them to consult with faculty, staff and students, with representatives of the Washington Federation of State Employees, with police officers, with residence hall staff, with Labor & Industry, and with other parties they deem appropriate in making their recommendation. I will also ask Steve Huntsberry, Director of Police Services, to submit to me a report to include an examination of dangerous incidents on campus involving the police, implications of 24-hour arming for community relations, a history of our experiences administering the current policy, and other factors that he considers relevant. The Union has requested that part of this review include the use of a consultant with expertise in law enforcement. I am in the process of deciding how such a consultation might occur. I will share the reports I receive from the consultant and Steve Huntsberry with the Police Services Community Review Board. I will, of course, also share any written reports I receive with the entire campus.

I intend to make my recommendations to President Purce by the end of Winter quarter 2003. I look forward to campus-wide input through the Community Review Board. I hope that important learning and communication will occur in the process. In making my recommendation to the President, I will be guided first and foremost by an interest in the safety of members of campus, including police officers.