Don’t Arm SUPD

A protest on April 11 took place as a direct response to the Student Government Association (SGA) 23-11 vote in favor of the Suffolk University Police Department (SUPD) to carry firearms. Although Suffolk Chief of Police and Security Gerard Coletta has made it abundantly clear that only sworn SUPD officers would be armed, there still remains a high level of concern.

Despite the assurances of all SUPD officers undergoing bias training and psychological evaluations, this does not wipe away history of racial tension between people of color and police institutions. 

The manner in which SGA collected data from the student population in the fall of 2017 was nowhere near adequate as less than 20% responded to the survey in regards to their personal opinions of arming SUPD. Clearly, this is not representative of the student body and all of their concerns being addressed.

How are students meant to be represented? How are we supposed to know what happens at our school when transparency isn’t practiced? Forums have been hosted and have given students opportunities to go and voice their opinions, but they have not been entirely fruitful. When the protest settled in the lobby of 73 Tremont Thursday, some students and administrators that passed by would stop and ask “what’s this about?” They would be unaware of the SGA vote passed in favor of arming SUPD officers. 

The Board of Trustees plan to vote on this issue in June. They will only vote if they collectively feel ready and aware of all factual matters. If not, the vote will be pushed to a later date. SGA’s vote serves as a representation of the student body and thus, a suggestion to declare what students want at Suffolk. This vote fell short of that as it only considered the concerns of those who voted in the fall of 2017 SGA survey. 

There is repetition of a vague threat that students and staff need to be protected from. Reports of a stabbing near Downtown Crossing has been cited, as well as response times from the Boston Police Department (BPD). The homeless walking about on Winter St. asking for change are not a threat. A potential threat is armed officers responding to a disturbance in a residence hall late at night. Getting caught in the heat of the moment is a real possibility and a regrettable consequence can unfold. Is that a risk worth taking if we arm our police?

The perspective of students of color did not seem to be taken into account. In this current political climate, their white counterparts do not have to continuously worry about a gun being pointed at their face or cope with the trauma that ensues after. So while some students feel safer with armed police on campus, the same cannot be said for those of color. 

Unfortunately, students of color already face racial discrimination daily. They do not need additional stress of their past experiences resurfacing or their worst fear plaguing their sense of security. Suffolk should be an environment where a student’s sole focus should ideally be on academics and their social lives. A student’s focus on campus should not be worrying if they get gunned down. 

SUPD has expressed that their own safety has been at risk since they could be in a situation where they could possibly be outgunned if they continue to be unarmed. For the sake of transparency, there should be specific reports available instead of just yearly security and fire safety reports which mostly detail procedural steps, as required by the Clery Act. These reports should be public, not private, detailing specific incidents so that students and faculty alike can see what SUPD face on a daily basis.

According to Suffolk University Crime Statistics (2015-2017), liquor law violations and drug law violations have had the largest number of on-campus referrals. Crimes such as burglary, arson and aggravated assault have had one or two on-campus reports. 

These crimes are too few to justify arming sworn officers on-campus and further isolating students of color in a predominately white institution.

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