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Forum considers safety and defense

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Catalina Diaz
Staff Writer

Accountability and training were just a few of the topics concerning students and community members at the Campus Officer Safety Forum held Monday evening by faculty and campus safety members.

The forum focused on the new implementation of the campus safety officers carrying defense devices.

If approved, officers will be able to carry and potentially use handcuffs and pepper spray.
The intimate crowd of 13 allowed for an in-depth conversation amongst attendees and faculty members who gathered in the Campus Center Ballroom.

Clive Houston-Brown, associate vice president of facilities and technology, said approximately 80 percent of respondents to last semesters’ forums were in favor of these changes, 10 percent to 15 percent were not in favor, and roughly 5 percent were indifferent.

He added that 20 percent of the respondents to previous forums carry pepper spray for their own protection – a policy that is currently not permitted by the University. This may change soon, Houston-Brown added.

Houston-Brown started the forum with a presentation about the process of implementation, which included officer training, what constitutes an appropriate reason to use the devices, officer and university expectations as well as data collected from nearby private colleges, including Cal Baptist, Loyola Marymount and Azusa Pacific, who equip their officers with various defense tools.

Adding to the forum’s faculty members were Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs; Daniel Loera, director of multicultural affairs; and Dave Keetle, interim senior director of university safety operations.

Currently, campus safety officers are not permitted to carry any protective equipment, which has caused much concern amongst the officers who are sometimes put in situations where potential harm may occur.

Students voiced their concerns about how officers will be trained and educated on how to use handcuffs and pepper spray, as well as what repercussions will be set in place if and when an event involves excessive force.

“I really want to make sure they are trained,” Deborah Gonzalez, junior speech communications major, said.

Gonzalez mentioned the Zimbardo Effect and how she hopes it does not affect the officer’s frame of mind if and when they are permitted to carry handcuffs and pepper spray.

The Zimbardo Effect, also known as the Lucifer Effect, is a term coined by author and doctor Philip Zimbardo who explains how power can change a person and cause generally good people to do bad things.

Keetle informed attendees that there will most likely be few incidences where the officers would need to use handcuffs or pepper spray, adding that because of this, he would hold trainings yearly to keep officers updated with relevant information.

Another major concern was cultural diversity and sensitivity, to which Brown responded that during training, officers would be given an implicit bias test.

Otherwise known as Project Implicit, the test will make known biases, if any, and how the person in question could overcome them.

Loera noted that there is a Social Justice Reporting Form that is available to anyone on campus who would like to report something they feel was biased.

“We have to know in order to make a change,” said Loera, adding that the importance of knowing the form exists is imperative.

Although the officers would be armed with pepper spray and handcuffs, Houston-Brown and the other faculty members at the forum said they hope this will not cause students and community members to fear them.

“My vision is for campus safety to know us by name and have good relationships,” Houston-Brown said.

Houston-Brown added that there is a “sense of false security” with the La Verne Police Department across the street from campus.

Although depended upon for ultimate situations, Brown said there is a preference to have campus safety officers to be the first responders because they would handle situations differently than a sworn officer might.

Suggestions and concerns from forum participants were heard and written down by Rahmani.

These suggestions will eventually help make the decision to permit the carrying of the items in question.

There will be one more community forum at noon on Oct. 4 before data is collected and presented to the University.

Catalina Diaz can be reached at catalina.diaz@laverne.edu.

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