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DPS shouldn’t run an arms race
Department of Public Safety officers are about to get a belated Easter gift: batons and pepper spray. By the end of March, all of Georgetown’s DPS patrol officers should be trained to use their new tools. But instead of protecting Georgetown against D.C.’s rising crime rate, these weapons might actually make life on campus more dangerous.
The decision to arm DPS officers was made over the summer “at the officers’ request … to provide our officers with the necessary skills and tools to do their jobs effectively,” University spokesperson Julie Green Bataille said. “It would be consistent with best practices nationwide on campuses to do so.”
According to Bataille, the University is waiting until the weapons training is complete to announce a timeframe for the introduction of the batons and pepper spray on campus. With the weapons already purchased and the officers about to complete training, though, armed DPS officers can’t be far away.
Georgetown could certainly use more officer training, but there are better ways to increase campus safety than pepper spray and batons. The Department of Public Safety’s high turnover rate and embarrassingly low officer salaries, for example, require immediate attention. Instead, the University chose to spend money on the weapons, defensive training and weapons instructors for DPS, rather than investing in overall training or increased officer salaries so that Georgetown can hire and retain the best security force available. Putting pepper spray and batons in the hands of underpaid officers is alarming.
In the event that a situation that requires weapons arises, it would be in the best interest of DPS officers and students alike to call the Metropolitan Police Department. The MPD has better-paid, fully-equipped personnel trained to handle dangerous situations. If, however, DPS is responding to noise violations and breaking up parties as usual, the introduction of pepper spray and batons will cause situations to escalate unnecessarily. While DPS officers have sometimes been involved in violent confrontations, like the fight last year where an officer was seriously injured, campus is safe without DPS officers wielding weapons.
Giving DPS more training and increasing campus security are admirable goals, and the University should be commended for demonstrating its willingness to invest in DPS. However, the decision to introduce pepper spray and batons on campus is dangerous and ill-advised in the face of so many other far more essential improvements that need to be made.