Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Guns! On campus!

There's some controversy here at Brown this week because of the new decision to arm our campus police officers. Apparently, there was a safety audit in 2001 which recommended a bunch of stuff, including the arming of the police force, and Brown higher-ups have spent the better part of three years deciding whether to follow the recommendation. And now, some people are relieved, and some people think the decision was wrong. I have a hard time seeing what all the fuss is about. Some people just seem to be genuinely scared. I find this baffling. I'm as paranoid about police as the next guy, but I'm not afraid of them abusing their guns. I've heard people who seem genuinely to expect that if the Brown police are armed, then they will go trigger-happy and end up slaughtering students. I was an undergraduate at Rice, which is much smaller than Brown, and much more closed off from the rest of the world. Rice is surrounded by a three-mile perimeter of hedges. Rice campus police are armed. For all I know they always have been (anyone know?). I never found it odd. I occasionally had my problems with the way the Rice police acted -- I do have a couple incidents in mind in which I considered their actions to have overstepped reasonable bounds. But the idea of one of them misusing a firearm never would have occurred to me. Brown, by contrast, is in the middle of everywhere and open to everything (Half the time when I'm walking in the area, I don't know whether I'm on campus or not.) Brown apparently lies near some pretty shady neighborhoods. Every week, I read reports about students getting mugged and beaten. Apparently, official policy for the unarmed police at Brown was to walk away from any violence and phone Providence police, who eventually show up. I absolutely cannot understand why so many people think this is a scary idea. I don't understand why it took three years to decide -- it really feels like a no-brainer. What's the point of a police force that can't engage crime?

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