The University administration has invited us—students, staff and faculty—to a discussion about increasing the responsibilities and capabilities of Villanova’s Public Safety Department and its officers. This will not be about parking tickets and unlocking doors. It is going to be a discussion about how we want to see law enforcement services delivered on our campus.
Of course, when I read that Public Safety wants to move toward “full service law enforcement” my mind immediately saw Public Safety Officers carrying fully loaded firearms. In fact, this is an option that appears to be on the table. This plan would dramatically change Public Safety. In effect, the University would have its own police force. They could perform many, if not all, of the duties now administered by the Radnor Police Department.
But this is more complex than you might think. Before you fall on one side or the other, take a minute to consider a few things. There are some compelling reasons that it might be better for the University to have its own police officers.
Currently, Public Safety Officers are constrained in many reccurring situations that happen on campus and must rely on Radnor to handle relatively simple calls. It would reduce the involvement of the local police on our campus. Plus, over the last several years, the Radnor police have built a reputation of insensitivity and apathy toward our students. This is more about perception than a judgment on their procedures.
More importantly, the University has also recently revised its sexual assault and harassment policy. It is, therefore, extremely important that we have investigation procedures that are sensitive to our students. Having our own police force that is trained and knowledgeable about dealing with non-stranger sexual assault on college campuses could be a benefit for all parties involved, especially survivors.
Also, having our own police force means that if we want to reform the system, we can do it internally instead of trying to change the procedures of the Radnor police.
But here is where we enter into a different kind of conversation. Do officers need to carry loaded firearms to do this kind of campus-based police work? I do not believe they do.
Whenever there is a gun present, no matter who has it, the nature of that interaction is intensified. Guns pose an existential question about how we live in this world, how we manage risk and fear and how we think about who we are and what we stand for.
While many of the reforms being proposed are concerned with internal issues within the student body and our life as a community (which do not need guns), firearms have to do with the outside world coming into the University.
The most important question here is whether it would be possible to have “full service law enforcement” on campus without carrying loaded weapons. That question needs to be asked and scrutinized by you, not just me.
No decisions have been made. As far as I can tell, the administration is open and interested in hearing what we have to say. But if we do not tell them what we want for this campus then they will assume that what they want is what we want.
This is a call to be a part of shaping a policy that will directly impact our campus. This is not a time to sit back and let someone else decide what is best for you. I invite you to be a part of the forums that are planned over the next few weeks.
The issue of guns and law enforcement elicit passionate responses on both sides. If you choose to be silent and ignorant, someone you don’t know will speak for you. Can you guarantee they will represent you? I didn’t think so. I’ll see you at one of these forums:
Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 4:00 p.m. in the Connelly Center Cinema
Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 10:00 a.m. in the Connelly Center Cinema
Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 6:00 p.m. in the Driscoll Auditorium
Thursday, Oct. 3, at 2:00 p.m. in Driscoll Auditorium