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Should College Campus Safety Officers Be Armed? Part 2

BY: George Babnick | Category: Education | Submitted: 2012-12-07 06:04:08
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Article Summary: "Creating and ensuring a safe environment on college campuses is critical in fostering a healthy learning environment. This article, second in a series of two articles, examines crime and safety on college campuses and discusses the benefits and disadvantages of having armed security or police officers on campus..."


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Second of two articles.


Hiring campus safety and security personnel

All colleges and universities hiring security personnel, regardless of whether they will be armed or unarmed, should have a thorough and probing hiring procedure that allows for a comprehensive evaluation of candidates. However, if the school expects their security personnel to perform a law enforcement role and especially if the school arms their officers, they should be aware that the potential for civil liability also increases. One way to mitigate this risk is for the employer to conduct thorough law-enforcement type pre-employment background investigations, including psychological testing, on all candidates.

Use of force policy and procedure

Along with hiring only those personnel passing a stringent background investigation, clear policies and procedures must be established to provide guidance on the use of force, especially on the use of firearms. An effective use of force policy sets the tone for officers and supervisors and is more than just putting words on paper or adopting some other institutions policy. Crafting sound and effective use of force policy takes specialized expertise and requires constant review and evaluation. Additionally, the policy must pass legal muster and must also be consistent with the values and mission of the organization.

Comprehensive training required

Having a good use of force policy is nothing more than fancy words on paper unless it is implemented and followed. An employer that expects their security personnel to make arrests, or use force - including the threat of force (i.e., pointing a firearm or pepper spray at someone, displaying a baton in a striking position, etc.), or even an employer that merely allows their security personnel to occasionally perform these functions, has a positive duty to not just train their personnel on the tactical use of the weapon, but must also train their personnel on the force that can be legally used and the limits of that force.

In today's world, effective training should include reality-based scenario training that allows controlled stress to be introduced into the training to simulate real-life conditions as best as possible. At a bare-bones minimum, use of force training should include training in applicable laws and statutes, policy and procedure, de-escalation techniques, tactical decision making, as well as mental health recognition and communication. Additionally, it should include some type of proficiency testing and all training records must be meticulously maintained.

Training involves a huge investment in time, effort, and money. Employers that fail to provide adequate training should not be surprised when things go wrong. Additionally, inadequate training subjects the college to an increased risk of tort actions for negligent training. When campus security uses force - particularly when they use or threaten the use of lethal force, and an injury or death occurs, one can expect that the injured person will file a lawsuit. One of the issues that will undoubtedly surface during litigation is the type of training the officer received or did not receive and the policies that were or were not in place governing the officer's actions. The risk of legal liability can also include security personnel who sustain injuries (including long lasting psychological injuries) during a use of force encounter. There are instances of security personnel suing their employer under a negligent training theory. Under these claims the basic argument is that the employer failed to give them the necessary training to do their job and as an actual and proximate result of that failure, they were injured.

An analysis of legal cases involving inadequate training for police and security personnel is beyond the scope of this article, but a review of the following cases give just a glimpse at the types of issues and liability that can result from claims of inadequate use of force training: Popow v. City of Margate, 476 F. Supp. 1237 (Dist. N.J. 1979); Tuttle vs. Oklahoma, 728 F. 2d 456 (10th Cir. 1984); Zuchel v. Denver, 997 F.2d 730 (10th Cir. 1993); McCelland vs. Facteau 610 F. 2d 693 (1979); Davis v. Mason County (WL 31291, 1991, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals), (927 F. 2d 1473 9th Circuit 1991); Rymer vs. Davis (754 F. 2d 198, 6th Circuit 1985).

Before a college or university decides to arm their safety and security personnel they should have a clear understanding of the issues raised in these and many other similar cases. They should understand that merely having armed personnel qualify once or twice a year at a firing range, as is still the standard in many campus and municipal police departments, is likely to fall under the ambit of inadequate training.

Supervision

Supervision is essential for all campus safety and security officers as it helps personnel focus and do their jobs properly and also helps officers comply with policy and maintain standards. Whether personnel are armed or unarmed, to be effective supervisors must serves simultaneously as a mentor, a trainer, and a guide. But, if campus officers are armed with firearms or less lethal weapons, proper supervision takes on even greater importance. When force is used - even if it is used appropriately, it sometimes results in complaints of excessive force. When courts, the Department of Justice or even the local media, review or scrutinize force complaints one common thread often becomes apparent - ineffective supervision. Supervision of campus safety and security officers is unique and is a vast subject that is well beyond the scope of this article. For this article it is suffice to point out that the importance of quality supervisory personnel cannot be overstated.

Conclusion

While college campuses are very safe when compared with the general community, serious crimes do occur on campus property and every college or university should have a comprehensive and on-going plan to provide for a safe and secure campus. When developing a safety and security program, colleges and universities should have a clear understanding of what role they want their security personnel to perform. If the decision is to have armed security personnel, campus administrators should have a clear understanding of the legal liabilities involved in arming personnel and they should take proactive steps to mitigate those risks. Hiring quality safety and security personnel, developing clear policies and procedures, providing comprehensive and on-going training, and effective supervision are affirmative steps that administrators can take to mitigate liability.

Finally, regardless of whether a college or university makes the decision to have unarmed or armed safety and security personnel, they would benefit from establishing a systematic approach to campus safety and security. Such an approach should be based on a philosophy that campus safety and security is an omnipresent responsibility that permeates every department on the campus. There must be recognition that everyone on campus has a responsibility to be security conscious and take personal steps to ensure their safety and security (i.e., report suspicious activities, lock vehicles and remove valuables from vehicle, participate in campus safety and security initiatives, etc.). While campus safety and security departments can provide leadership and can respond in crisis situations, there must also be recognition that campus safety and security can only be achieved through a shared responsibility. Campus safety and security can no longer be the exclusive responsibility of the safety and security department.

About Author / Additional Info:
PART 1: http://www.saching.com/Articles/Should-College-Campus-Safety-Officers-Be-Armed-Part-1-16139.html

George W. Babnick, JD is a 32 year law enforcement veteran with an extensive background in training, school policing, criminal and administrative investigations, supervision and management, and criminal forensics. He currently serves as a Captain in the Portland, Oregon Police Bureau where he manages the Forensic Evidence Division. He holds criminal justice degrees from Portland Community College and Portland State University and a law degree from Northwestern California University School of Law, Sacramento California. He is a member of ASIS (American Society of Industrial Security), the Western Society of Criminology, the IAI (International Association of Identification), and the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police). He is the author of articles on law enforcement and security, private investigations, supervision and management, and risk management related to these subjects. He can be reached at: gbabnick@lycos.com. Nothing in this article is intended to or should be construed as legal advice. Persons needing legal advice should seek the counsel of an attorney.

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