Committees & DTFs

Steve Huntsberry's Review of Limited Arming (1-27-03)

Public safety has been important to Evergreen since the college opened in 1971.

When the college was created by the Legislature in 1967, its board of trustees chose to create a security force with limited police commissions under the Sheriff's office instead of its own unit.

In 1989, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries cited the college for providing unsafe working conditions for its public safety officers. The citation was issued because "security employees were repeatedly allowed to perform police duties that they are not provided training and equipment to handle, placing them in serious situations." As part of the college's response to the citation, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were established that prohibited officers from intervening in category 1 crimes. These include homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, burglary, robbery, riot, prowler/suspicious person, domestic violence suicide (with weapon), vehicle stops, narcotics (felony) and all physical arrest situations.

Between 1990 and 1992, a comprehensive study of campus safety was undertaken. An external consultant recommended limiting arming.

In response, the Evergreen Board of Trustees in 1992 authorized the establishment of a commissioned campus police force. It specified that officers should receive full training as police officers but that they should not be armed. Evergreen police officers are fully commissioned with 440 hours of training or have attained the equivalency segment from the Washington State Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Academy.

In spring 1995, when Gary Russell stepped down as director of Public Safety, Neil McClanahan, Thurston County Undersheriff and an Evergreen alumnus, was asked to be interim director and to prepare a report on the status of the department and SOPs. This document recommended that officers should be fully armed and was made available to the Evergreen community. Vice President for Student Affairs Art Costantino started a process of community consultation that included a series of public forums, invitations to write or e-mail, discussions on KAOS, a campus survey that brought more than 1,000 responses, a meeting with staff of color, and door-to-door conversations in residence halls. Responses came through all those channels as well as through demonstrations, petitions and sit-ins.

Based on this input, Art recommended that police officers be given limited access to firearms, asserting that the campus would be better served by officers whom Evergreen hired, trained and supervised, and who know the college community, rather than relying on emergency support from the Thurston County Sheriff's Office. President Jane Jervis agreed with Art's recommendation and forwarded it to the board of trustees. After a day of public hearings, the board voted to provide officers with limited access to firearms and approved a process to define limited access.
To this end, the board directed the Jane to appoint a disappearing task force (DTF) to make recommendations, including:

  • When, where and how officers would have access to firearms
  • Training and screening criteria for officers
  • Structure and charge of a permanent community review board to review decisions to call on an armed response and every instance in which arms are drawn or used

At that same board meeting, the trustees affirmed the principle that "primary responsibility for the safety of the campus and its students, faculty, staff and guests rests with the college community, and that all members share that responsibility." In addition, the trustees also concluded, "This is generally a safe and welcoming campus and it wishes to remain so, but acknowledges that it does not exist in isolation from the very real pressures and dangers of American society."

The 11-member DTF met from February to May 1996. It engaged in research, interviewing, reading, consultation, and public review and discussion activities. The DTF held an open forum on May 8 for the community to review and comment upon a draft. Feedback was accepted May 6-15. Final recommendations were presented to Jane on May 24.

Early in its work, the DTF agreed on goals, including:

  • Community safety (actual and perceived)
  • Safety of officers
  • Safety of the intervener(s)
  • State law compliance
  • Increased rapport between Police Services and the community
  • Community control of safety and liability versus outside control (e.g., Sheriff's office)
  • Minimization for potential of escalation of incident(s)
  • Community education, responsibility and safety training
  • Officer training
  • Minimization of liability

DTF recommendations were based on the Continuum of Force chart used by all Washington State police officer training academies. A number of items are part of those recommendations. Those specific to the issue of arming include the following:

  • Between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., seven days a week, officers will have access to their firearm secured in their vehicle and/or the Police Services office. Exceptions are noted and include the protection of individuals transferring money or other valuable property; providing protection when the presence of a visitor may present a significant threat or security hazard to the visitor or the community; and responding to potentially dangerous situations, including, but not limited to, homicide, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, burglary, robbery, riot, prowler/suspicious person, domestic violence, suicide (with weapon), vehicle stops, narcotics (felony) and all physical arrest situations.
  • Firearms are to be worn visibly when providing backup for other law enforcement agencies.
  • When patrolling areas distant from their vehicles, officers will visibly wear their firearms.
  • Between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., seven days a week, officers will visibly wear their firearm except when at their discretion, it is removed or during public relations visits when it may be removed.

Furthermore, the DTF made recommendations for campus SOPs:

  • Officers may unholster and use a firearm only when they reasonably believe there is an imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or death to themselves or others.
  • Officers may not draw or fire their weapon to effect an arrest or gain compliance, unless, in their best judgment, there is a potential life-threatening situation.
  • Officers may not discharge their weapon merely for suspicion.
  • Firing warning shots is not permitted.
  • Firing at a dangerous animal is permitted for self-defense or the defense of others.
  • Shooting a wounded animal to end suffering is permitted.
  • Drawing a firearm as a show of force is permitted when an assailant confronts an officer with the threat of deadly force.
  • Supervisory staff, director and lieutenants may carry a weapon at their discretion.
  • On-duty officers may use only college-approved or college-issued weapons.

Prepared by the Office of College Relations