There has been a lot of discussion on Reddit and Facebook about the recent announcement that Public Safety will have access to long guns in the case of an active shooter on campus. From what I’ve seen, there is a good mix of students expressing support as well as others expressing concern for these measures.
I feel that there is a larger issue at hand that is causing the majority of concerns from the students, and that is their distrust in Public Safety. Ask anyone around campus their feelings on Public Safety and it won’t take much time at all until you find someone that has had negative experiences, or a general disdain for them. Many laugh at their attempts to mimic Monroe County Sheriffs (just look at the similarities in vehicle wraps, for example), as well as their general disregard for following the rules they enforce on students. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve witnessed Public Safety cruisers blatantly run a stop sign, sometimes narrowly missing a student in the crosswalk. I don’t even bother calling in a complaint anymore, as last time the dispatcher laughed, said “Okay, thanks,” and hung up. How do you expect your students to take your department seriously when their concerns aren’t treated with respect?
As a mental health advocate on campus, I often hear students’ experiences with mental health crises. The most common thing I hear is usually along the lines of, “If it happens again I’m not going back to Public Safety, they just make things worse.” These students tell their friends, who then have a negative view of Public Safety, who tell their friends, and so on. The very students Public Safety should be helping are the ones actively avoiding them. Speaking from personal experience, my own formal complaint regarding a similar issue was dismissed with “I’m not going to apologize for the way you were treated.” That does not encourage me to seek Public Safety’s help if I found myself in that situation again. For what it’s worth, I have heard that the mental health crisis training has been addressed, but Public Safety has made no effort to inform students of it.
I feel that Public Safety has done a very poor job earning the respect of students. From numerous complaints about their handling of mental health issues, to a complete lack of respect for the rules they are supposed to enforce, Public Safety has not shown to students that they are here in their best interest. I have no doubt that the department is filled with good people, who have the campus’ best interests at heart, but I can’t help but notice the many students that don’t believe that to be the case.
The department has an image problem that they must address if they want students to trust them and take them seriously. The negative responses to the arming of officers is just the latest example of this.