The Student Government Organization (SGA) voted in favor (23 – 11) of arming the Suffolk University Police Department (SUPD). This vote comes in the wake of a university-wide discussion of arming SUPD officers. Considering the location of Suffolk University — in one of the more dangerous areas of Boston — the decision of SGA to endorse the arming of SUPD officers is the correct decision.

The Downtown Crossing neighborhood is arguably one of the most dangerous areas in the city. Considering the close proximity of the 10 West, Modern Theater and Smith Hall residence buildings to Downtown Crossing, it surprised me that SUPD was not armed when I first arrived here as a freshman last fall. Even at my small high school in Lakeville, Massachusetts we had an armed School Resource Officer (SRO).

Never once at my high school did I hear a complaint that we had an armed police officer at the school. She was there to serve and protect, not to intimidate. The same thing is true with officers of the SUPD. My high school’s SRO was a sworn police officer of the Lakeville Police Department. She had to go to the police academy and follow all of the steps that it takes to become a police officer. All officers of the SUPD currently have to do this training as well.

The reason my high school had a SRO is the same reason that Suffolk University has police officers. They are here to keep us safe. In one of the most dangerous areas of the city, I would expect that SUPD should be armed. It would not be out of the realm of possibility that a Suffolk student could be attacked or robbed near the residence halls or outside a classroom building where a SUPD officer would be much faster to respond than the Boston Police Department (BPD). 

At the SGA campus safety forum earlier this semester, it was noted that there was an average response time for BPD of 7 to 7.5 minutes. That 7 minutes could be the difference between life and death. What is the point, however, of having SUPD when they cannot respond to incidents where a suspect could be armed because of their own lack of a gun?

Like it or not, police need guns to do their jobs effectively, especially in the United States. There will always be guns on the street, legal or not, and police and law enforcement need to be able to counter those with their own guns. Arming police has, however, given rise to concerns about police brutality and racism, as well as SUPD officers responding to incidents of drunk students in the residence halls where alcohol is not permitted.

To the issue of SUPD responding to drunk students, I have one answer: if you do not want an armed police officer in your dorm room, do not break the law. If you bring alcohol into the dorms, you accept the risk that a possible outcome is that an armed police officer comes into your living space. This would be no different, perhaps even worse, off campus. A BPD officer responding to an underage drinking call would be armed, as all BPD officers are, and that situation could end in an arrest instead of disciplinary action from the university.

As far as the issue of racism and police brutality, there are many minority officers on the SUPD police force. Making generalizations about police is dangerous. Yes, there are some bad apples in police departments across the country, but Suffolk is a small community with a police force nowhere near the size of BPD or NYPD or even some smaller towns.

My proposal to everyone who has this concern is to reach out and talk to an SUPD officer. Talk to them about why they think they should be armed, why they are a SUPD officer or anything else. You could even make a friend by doing it.

Arming SUPD is something that has been discussed for a long time. People have had opinions on all sides. This hotly contested issue seems to be in its final hour before a decision will possibly be made.

Overall, arming SUPD would be great decision. It will keep students on campus safer. It will help keep SUPD officers safer. It will be a lifesaving change to Suffolk University. I strongly encourage the Board of Trustees to vote for arming SUPD.

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