Committees & DTFs

PSCRB Final Report to Art Costantino (4-10-03)

Date: April 10, 2003

To: Art Costantino - Vice President for Student Affairs
Cc: Evergreen Community

From: Police Services Community Review Board (PSCRB): Linda Hohman (chair), Kathleen Haskett, Kate Lykins Brown, Alan Parker, Joe Tougas (beginning March 2003), Afsheen Fatemi, Brant Eddy, Emily Himmelright, AmyLyn Ribera (administrative support)

Subject: Report and Recommendation on the Limited Arming Policy

During fall quarter 2002, you charged the Police Services Community Review Board (PSCRB) with reviewing the College's limited arming policy for police services, based on a request from the Washington Federation of State Employees, the union that represents classified employees at Evergreen. In what follows, we will outline our role, specific charge with respect to this issue, process and recommendation.

Mission and Role of the Police Services Community Review Board

1. Review complaints about the work of Police Services. The director of Police Services should be the first contact for complaints about interactions between police officers and community members. In cases where the director does not resolve the complaint, community members may file a written complaint with the chair of the PSCRB. This would be an alternative to forwarding the complaint directly to the vice president for Student Affairs.

2. Enhance communications. It is expected that the PSCRB will monitor the impact of police actions, inform the community about important police matters and, in general, serve as a source of information between Evergreen community members and the police. In accomplishing this work, the PSCRB may hold forums, provide on-line communication and/or distribute materials.

Charge to Review Limited Arming Policy

On October 14, 2002, you attended a PSCRB meeting and reported that the union, on behalf of Evergreen's police officers, had requested a review of our limited arming policy. You stated further that any change in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should involve a campus group, and the PSCRB is charged with advising you and director of Police Services on SOP changes. The union had specifically requested that an outside law enforcement agency review be included in the examination of the current arming policy. Steve Huntsberry, director of Police Services, was asked to find an outside consultant from the Western Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (WACLEA) to conduct this review. You also suggested the following as possible ways of gathering information:

1. PSCRB should meet with committees and groups (such as RAs, Labor & Industries, the union, faculty, staff and students), and then make a recommendation to you.
2. Huntsberry would provide an assessment of the current arming policy.
3. Huntsberry would look for an outside consultant.

The PSCRB asked to wait until winter quarter to gather input on the recommended change to the arming policy due to community police issues that needed our attention during fall quarter. You agreed to postpone this review until winter quarter. The PSCRB agreed to submit a final report to you by the end of the second week of April.

Current Arming Policy

The current arming policy, which has been in effect since 1997, allows campus police officers to carry firearms from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., seven days a week. Police officers may carry firearms from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. when distant from their automobiles (where guns are secured in lockboxes), 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.

Process

The PSCRB and SPAR (Students for Police Accountability and Responsibility) joined together to undertake a campaign of information gathering with several constituencies. PSCRB and SPAR provided 15 public forums or meetings and sent five all-campus e-mails soliciting input and offering discussion opportunities to the campus community. We advertised the gatherings and PSCRB e-mail address in the CPJ, by KAOS public service announcements, campus e-mail, and by posting fliers in the Housing Community Center, every campus residential building, the CAB, CRC, Library and Seminar buildings. Click here to see the entire schedule of events.

Results of Process

During our meetings, the PSCRB and SPAR realized the Washington Federation of State Employees request for full arming of our police officers was a safety and liability issue for the College and this community. We knew this would not be an issue of taking a vote on whether people like guns, and that it would be a challenge to educate the community and get constructive feedback. The union states in part: "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 problematical and dangerous constraints. The limited arming constraints prevent the police officers from adequately protecting and serving the community on a 24-hour basis. Officers must be prepared to respond to a critical incident at a moment's notice. Without this 24-hour protection, the overall community and police officers are in jeopardy." (WFSE letter of 9/24/02)

The forum attendance numbers were disappointing, although those who did attend were well informed and asked good questions.

  • Approximately 300 students were contacted during the door-to-door information gathering
  • Four students attended the forum in the Housing Community Center
  • One student attended the forum in the CAB
  • No students attended the women's forum
  • 14 residents attended the family housing potluck/forum
  • Two students attended the meeting with the union
  • Approximately nine students attended the meeting with the WACLEA consultant
  • Less than 10 students stopped to inquire during the evening tabling in the CAB
  • 12 staff attended the staff forum
  • Five staff attended the meeting with WACLEA
  • Two faculty attended the faculty forum, one of whom expressed opposition to full arming
  • We received 23 e-mails from the community in support of full arming
  • We received four e-mails from the community opposed to full arming

The vast majority of students living on campus with whom we had communication assumed the police are armed around the clock, primarily because their interactions with the police are usually in the evening when officers are fully armed. In those conversations, we found that students expect uniformed police to carry firearms and to respond to situations fully prepared to deal with whatever is happening. One student stated, "We should respect the ability for a TESC officer to save us and themselves in a life or death situation should it ever present itself." Most students tended to skim over the arming issue and change the subject to community policing and what they would like to see our police doing to become more integrated into the community. In fact, the students expressed an overwhelming desire to have positive interactions with the police and to know them better. There were a few students who oppose guns on principle; their opinion is that it is wrong for anyone to own a gun and that the police should not be encouraging arming.

Students in family housing appreciate having campus police and fully expect that officers will be equipped to handle any situation to which they respond. Again, families see the police mostly at night when they carry firearms, and said they would be more upset if we did not have law enforcement readily available on campus. A number of our families are single parents with children, some of whom have come out of domestic violence situations and feel the need to have armed police immediately available should their abusers come to campus or threaten them or their children.

Students set up a table in the CAB in the evening during the week to have discussions with evening students. Again, evening students are on campus at night when police are armed and have no issues with our police being armed. Some of the evening students are off-duty police officers from the greater Olympia community who do not understand why trained, commissioned police officers would not be allowed to carry a firearm and do not believe they can properly do their job without one.

The staff and faculty who took the time to read the information provided on the PSCRB and/or Police Services Web site, or who are familiar with law enforcement training, regulations and procedures, support Evergreen officers having the tools to accomplish their jobs of serving and protecting the community. Some think it is unfair to put our officers in a position of responsibility for protecting the community, but not allow them to carry the tools to effectively do their job. One person said, "If Evergreen is going to have a Police Services Department, than it needs to operate as one."

By appointing a Deadly Force Review Board and through employee termination, the College has shown that it will not tolerate the improper handling or use of firearms in the SOP. A number of people said that the idea of arming police part time is ridiculous and could put their life and the lives of others at a greater risk. The hope is the campus police will never have to use guns, but if a situation calls for weapons, they should have them readily available at all times. There is no way to predict when or how often an officer may need any of their tools. Housing, Counseling & Health Center, and other Student Service staff have had to call upon campus police in several instances when they were concerned for their safety while working with angry and potentially dangerous students, former students or visitors. Several people said that we should not wait for an unfortunate incident to happen to change our arming policy; they believe the College has a duty and responsibility to properly equip and train all employees so they can properly perform the essential functions of their job. If a situation turns out to be much more serious than originally reported and the officers are not equipped to properly protect themselves or others, it is a huge liability for the College and its community. Another staff member said, "I would feel safer knowing that police were armed 24 hours daily as opposed to having to get a weapon from a lock-box in a vehicle trunk or elsewhere in the case of an emergency." Furthermore, most people assume that an officer in uniform is armed, which increases the risk for officer safety. People expect that police officers are armed, and we do not want our officers to be in a position where someone else is able to escalate to deadly force while our officers are not equipped to respond. Believing that nothing dangerous can happen in our community is to deny the potential risks that do and can occur. On this issue, a student commented, "It is unfair and irresponsible for our school administration to have policies that prohibit our campus police officers from carrying firearms on a continual basis while on-duty." If the police are unable to respond in a proper and effective way to eliminate the threat to someone's life due to unsafe regulations, we know that the College may face litigation.

The PSCRB learned that 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 there is of an accidental discharge. Following the current limited arming gun handling procedures for our officers means that an officer checks a gun out of a vault and puts it in a holster when arriving at work. They remove the weapon from their holster and put it in a locked box in the patrol car. They unlock and remove the gun from the box and put it in a holster when distant from their car. They then remove the gun from the holster and put it back in the box and lock it when returning to the car to go back out on patrol.

This is done several times each day during limited arming hours (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The current policy does not define when or how far "distant from the automobile" is before arming is allowed; therefore, each officer makes his or her own decision. According to the officers, Labor & Industry found no discrepancy in the SOPs by taking the literal definition of "distant from their vehicle" to mean "as soon as an officer stepped from the car." It is impossible to outline every situation that would warrant not being armed, or being armed, if distant from the automobile. It is estimated that Evergreen officers are required by SOP to handle their firearms eight times more often than fully armed officers during routine police work. The officers themselves stated that the safest place for their gun is for it to be secured in their holster. In addition, the current policy compromises the Limited Arming DTF's Community Policing recommendations by tying the police to their cars.

The Limited Arming DTF recommendations are seen by some as the result of a compromise between the community members who wanted an Evergreen police force and those who wanted to continue relying on the Thurston County Sheriffs office for law enforcement needs. The Limited Arming Policy seemed adequate and functional in 1997, but there has been a dramatic increase in potentially dangerous incidents since that suggest we need to change the policy. To mention a few:

  • A former student threatened the lives of 12 faculty, students and staff
  • A Housing Resident Director (RD) was assaulted
  • A significant number of physical and domestic violence assaults have occurred on campus
  • Several life threats to Evergreen community members
  • The shooting of a police officer by an Evergreen student in another state
  • Armed robberies in the Cashiers office and in the Housing Community Center
  • More drug related arrests
  • More off campus intruders with criminal backgrounds coming on campus exhibiting threatening behavior

Beyond Evergreen's campus, local, national and international events suggest that a sense of, and the reality of, personal safety are easily jeopardized. Such events include: September 11th, the Columbine shooting, the Maryland and D.C. sniper killings and the war in Iraq.

The Olympia community has grown; the borders are right next to the campus now. Vehicle traffic has increased on Evergreen Parkway, resulting in an increased risk to campus police officers and to community members. The vice president for Student Affairs and Director of Police Services have deemed full arming necessary on at least nine occasions. Huntsberry states "Violence happens unexpectedly and does not 'time-out' for the unprepared officer to retrieve her/his firearm. Violence occurs in seconds, not the minutes it would take for and unarmed, on-scene officer to properly equip his/herself to prevent serious injury or death."

Evergreen's Social Contract states that: "Members of the Evergreen Community recognize that the College is part of the larger society as represented by the state of Washington, which funds it, and by the community of greater Olympia, in which it is located." Several incidents have occurred on our campus in recent years that remind us that we are not separate from the greater Olympia community or immune to crime. Campus police have had to respond to numerous incidents requiring them to carry and/or use their tools. The SOP and DTF arming recommendations are very stringent on when and how force is used by our police officers. Since some people believe that if officers have guns they will use them inappropriately, it seems important to note some of the guidelines involving force, and to point out that a gun is the last stage of force in the continuum and is only to be used as a last resort when there is an imminent threat to a life.

10.02.00 (SOP) Use of Deadly Force - Officers should exhaust every reasonable means of apprehension before they resort to using Deadly Force. Each Officer is responsible for controlling the use of deadly weapons and the public expects her/him to do so. The decision to apply Deadly Force in a situation should not be based solely on the fact that Department regulations and state laws allow its use. Good judgment must always dictate reasonable and necessary action.

Justification must be limited to what reasonably appears to be the facts known or perceived by Officers at the time they decide to use Deadly Force. Facts unknown to Officers, no matter how compelling, cannot be considered at a later time to justify the use of Deadly Force.

Officers may use Deadly Force to:

1) Protect themselves or others from what they reasonably believe to be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.

2) Arrest or apprehend a person the Officer believes has committed or has attempted to commit, is committing, or is attempting to commit a felony. In considering whether to use Deadly Force under this subsection, the Officer must have probable cause to believe that a subject, if not apprehended, poses a threat of serious physical harm to the Officer or to others. Among the circumstances which may be considered a threat of serious physical harm are if a subject threatens an Officer with a weapon or displays a weapon in a manner that could reasonably be construed as threatening, and/or if there is probable cause to believe that a subject has committed any crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm.

3) Prevent escape from the Officer under the conditions of this section. The Officer should issue a warning that Deadly Force may be used when time and circumstances allow. (RCW 9A.16.040)

4) Deadly Force may not be used to prevent the escape of an apparently unarmed subject attempting to flee unless the Officer has probable cause to believe that the subject poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the Officer or to others.

10.02.00 (SOP) Use of Force Continuum - Officers are routinely confronted with situations when control must be exercised to effect arrests and to protect public safety. Control may be achieved through advice, warning, persuasion, physical force, or ultimately by use of Deadly Force.

Officers may enter the force continuum at any place in the progression, as dictated by the situation. Once in the force continuum, the Officer may move back or forth. Officers should understand that they are not restricted to incremental steps in the continuum. Should circumstances dictate the need for an instant increase or decrease in the amount of force, Officers may skip intermediate steps to select the appropriate amount of force.

Use of Force Continuum Stages:
Stage 1----Officer Presence
Stage 2----Verbal Commands/Lawful Orders
Stage 3----Conflict Resolution
Stage 4----Physical Touching-Guiding-escorting
Stage 5----Restrain/Active Control
OC Spray
Pain Compliance
Pressure Points
Counter Joint Techniques
Hair Techniques
Stage 6----Impact Weapons for Control
Baton
Flashlight
Tazer
Other Authorized Impact Weapons
Stage 7----Tactical Vehicle Intervention (TVI)
Stage 8----Threat of Deadly Force
Stage 9----Deadly Force
Firearms
Impact Weapons for Self Defense

Other sections in Chapter 10 of the SOP outline the reporting guidelines that officers must use whenever any deadly force is used, not just deadly force with a gun. The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, certifies fully commissioned police officers, including Evergreen's, is a top-notch academy and teaches the essential elements to give officers the basic skills needed to do their job including the decisions on when to use or not use deadly force. Ongoing training and practice with firearms and other weapons are also a requirement. The most important job the College and administration have is to make sure we have a good written policy, regular and adequate training, and we hold officers accountable for inappropriate or unjustified behavior.

A couple of community members were upset about the attitude from one of the officers when they were issued a citation. One was a traffic citation, another a minor in possession/consumption of alcohol citation. Because they were unhappy with one officer, they did not want to "reward" officers with guns. The officer did not draw or un-holster his gun in either of these situations. Also, we were told "rumors" people had heard about the police mistreating someone or drawing their guns when they should not. We were not able to prove or disprove these allegations because no one was willing to speak about a particular situation. These are instances where we would like to steer people back to the Social Contract, Section (2) purpose: "Evergreen can thrive only if members respect the rights of others while enjoying their own rights. Â…All must share alike in Â…responsibly obtaining and in providing full and accurate information, and in resolving their differences through due process with a will to collaboration." When we have issues with a community member or members, the Social Contract encourages resolving the issue with that person first; if that does not work, going to the person's supervisor is suggested. If there is a conflict with a police officer, there is the additional option of requesting the Police Services Community Review Board or the vice president for Students Affairs review the complaint. When responding to a complaint, the Board or vice president conducts a complete examination of officer performance in the context of the SOP.

Another concern we heard is the concern that we will be giving up a part of Evergreen's uniqueness by becoming fully armed-that by having a limited arming policy we are hanging on to some of our culture and philosophy, specifically whenever possible, a commitment to resolving conflict without resorting to force. This commitment requires community members to pay special attention to officer accountability, conflict resolution, training, and building community trust even under limited arming. Going to full arming does not change or undermine this community. The mere existence of a Police Services Community Review Board and a Deadly Force Review Board sets us apart from other schools with regard to community involvement. Section (3) on Freedom and Civility of the Social Contract was referenced in one discussion: "The individual members of the Evergreen community are responsible for protecting each other and visitors on campus from physical harm, from personal threats, and from uncivil abuse. Civility is not just a word; it must be present in all our interactions. Similarly, the institution is obligated, both by principle and by the general law, to protect its property from damage and unauthorized use and its operating processes from interruption."

All community members are bound by the Social Contract, including the police. However, not everyone defines "community" or "protecting each other" in the same way. The Police Services mission and job are "to do everything possible to provide an environment in which you can feel safe to learn, work and live" and "to educate community members at every opportunity." Evergreen has had a number of incidents involving drinking, drugs and violence in recent years similar to what other Colleges and universities are experiencing, which suggests we are not unique in the problems we face as an institution of higher education. We believe that we need police officers to feel comfortable that they can carry out assigned duties without fearing for their safety.

Recommendation

Based on the recommendation from the Washington Federation of State Employees, input from the community, a written report from an outside College law enforcement professional, the director of Police Services report and other information we have gathered, we believe the College needs to change our current arming policy to full arming to maximize officer safety, the safety of community members and visitors, and to decrease College liability. While addressing this fundamental safety issue, we must also intensify efforts to achieve genuine community policing, building an atmosphere of mutual trust, understanding and collaboration between officers and other community members. We suggest that the SOPs should be updated to more fully reflect Evergreen's commitment to non-violent conflict resolution and restorative justice.

We truly appreciate all the community input we received and, knowing that not everyone will be happy or reach the same conclusion on this issue, hope our fellow students, staff and faculty will work together to strive for a safe, respectful and educational school and work environment.