Committees & DTFs

Consultant Report (4-2-03)

April 2, 2003

Art Costantino
Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs
The Evergreen State College
Library 3236
Olympia, WA 98505

RE: 24/7 Arming Issue

Vice President Costantino:

Thank you for inviting me to visit your campus and being given the opportunity to listen to your community's concerns regarding the arming issue for The Evergreen State College Police Department. You have a beautiful campus and many wonderful people who are passionate about their issues and how they affect the goals and mission of the campus.

You have asked me, as a professional in the law enforcement community, to listen to concerns and to review the current policy regarding the limited arming policy at TESC. My responses are based on my 24 years of law enforcement experience in both city policing (Albuquerque, New Mexico) and university policing; my expertise in drafting and analyzing policies and procedures for police departments including meeting national accreditation standards; my experience in defending police departments in use of force and liability issues; and my overall awareness of safety concerns for officers.

I have reviewed numerous documents as to why the limited arming policy came into being and listened to some of the concerns as to why it should remain. I have also read many documents and listened as to why the policy should be changed to 24/7. I have verified that the police officers at TESC are fully commissioned officers who were all certified by the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC). I have worked closely with the WSCJTC since my arrival in Washington and I have been certified myself by the same academy. I can tell you that this is a top notch academy and teaches the essential elements to give officers the basic skills needed do their job including the decisions on when to use or not use deadly force. I have also read the current policy for the TESC Police Department on when officers can or cannot carry their firearm.

Let me address each one of your specific questions:

Should TESC move to 24/7 Arming? Absolutely. You have officers who are fully trained on use of force issues. You will always have, and will continue to have issues, reviews, and scrutiny as to whether any use of force is justified or not. That exists whether you have limited arming or not. The key, of course, is to have a good written policy, have regular and adequate training, reinforce appropriate behavior and discipline for inappropriate or unjustified behavior.

You should not wait for an unfortunate incident to happen to change your policy. The university has a duty and responsibility to properly equip and train each and every employee so that they can properly perform the essential functions of their job. When you have restricted the officers by only allowing officers to be armed during certain circumstances, you are essentially deprived them of the ability to be properly equipped. If the situation turns out to be much more serious then originally reported, the officers will not be equipped to properly protect themselves or others. This is a huge liability to the university and its community. In addition, because of your current policy, the more times an officer takes a weapon in and out of a holster and has to secure it in another location, the more risk of an accidental discharge.

An unstable individual does not identify whether an officer is armed or unarmed but identifies the person in the uniform and automatically assumes they are armed. The risk automatically increases for an officer because of the uniform and acts of aggression are taken towards that uniform. So, the exposure of your officers already exists because they are clearly identified by the uniform. This is a huge safety concern on the officers' part and their concern is easily understood.

Lastly, the current policy is subject to too much interpretation which leads to an administrative nightmare for the department. Having to decide the distance for which they can leave their vehicle in order to be armed is not enforceable. I don't think the original spirit of the policy can be met in today's world. I don't think you can do anything to the policy to correct this deficiency without having to address each and every situation. This would require a huge book to be written and then you will still not be able to cover every possible situation.

Are there any viable alternatives to 24/7 arming? No

Are changes in our current SOP or training necessary to support the direction I'm recommending? The SOP definitely will need to be changed, but not significantly. Changes mainly need to be made by deleting the areas which talk about the limited use. The content of when deadly force can or cannot be used is already addressed in the SOP. However, I do think there could be additional information added such as not shooting from a moving vehicle or at a moving vehicle, not allowing warning shots, etc. I have included UWPD's policy as an example. You already have a Deadly Force Review Board and it appears that the Board is performing the appropriate function and is serving its purpose.

I would recommend additional training for the main purpose of reiterating the deadly force policy. Although I'm sure it will be repetitive, it never hurts to go over the situations again. The training can also serve as the segway to making the adjustment from a limited use to a 24/7 usage. This is the time to discuss some of the issues that came up in the discussion groups while I was there, building the trust between the community and the police department.

In conclusion, I feel in listening to the comments from the several groups I met with on campus, it appears that there was no disagreement from the vast majority of those present that they thought the officers should be properly equipped. They also recognized that there was a concern for safety on the officers part and acknowledged that there was merit to those issues. The basis for any disputes was not the issue of whether officers should be armed 24/7 but more of a trust issue between the community and the police department. Like in most communities, this is not unique. I think the open dialogue in these forums was productive. There are people who feel that they have been mistreated by the police department and did not address their issue with anyone. The forum became their means of bringing their issue forward. I encourage you and the police department to continuing with the open dialogues with your community and allow the community opportunities to file complaints if they feel there has been inappropriate conduct by anyone in the police department.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Vicky M. Peltzer
Chief of Police

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