The New American University: Education, Opportunity & an Assault Rifle?

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

Kent State/US Flag

It’s gotten to the point where I have to pinch myself when I wake up each morning. It’s not some odd dream; not some perverted nightmare. It is the reality that has become so commonplace over the last 8 years that it is written off as par for the course. Mention the word security and suddenly you’re granted a no questions asked get out of jail free card. The worst part is, the card comes with the kitchen sink and keys to the safe. In this case it looks like those keys are in fact to the gun safe. As a recent Arizona State University grad this one hits close to home.

Yesterday (March 5th) the Arizona Republic reported that all three of Arizona’s major universities’ police departments have adopted plans to purchase military grade assault rifles in the immediate future. The Republic reported that Arizona State University (ASU) will be the first of the big three to adopt the weapons. In fact, according to the article ASU has already purchased four assault rifles and is in the process of raising funds for the purchase of four more. The assault rifles are to be distributed among the campus police vehicles – yeah, police cars with machine guns sitting in them around campus -where they will remain until needed.

So, what’s the justification for putting assault rifles on our college campuses? “Active Shooter” situations in which the University/Police Department claim there may not be sufficient time for SWAT to arrive. Which might sound great unless you are familiar with ASU’s main campus. The catch lies in the details. You see, the Tempe police department is located kitty corner to the ASU Campus. In fact if you include the Brickyard (on Mill) & The Towers (Dorms) you could even argue that the Tempe Police Department is located ON ASU’s campus. If you decide to focus instead on ASU Main’s central core the police station is some 1,000 feet off campus. Take a look for yourself:

Tempe Campus from Google Maps

I realize that the setting and environment are a bit different, but besides the obvious issues, hasn’t history taught us a few lessons about this sort of thing? The “Under Siege” image I created at the top of this post was created by combining a photo of the U.S. Flag and an old black & white photo from the 1970 Kent State incident. A historic moment which illustrated all too well the dangers of combining university populations, protests, and automatic weapons.

I appreciate that police vehicles are fairly secure, but are they really THAT secure? After all Arizona was ranked as the state with the most vehicle thefts per capita in 2001. The last statistics I saw stated that we had improved to 4th in 2006.

It just doesn’t make sense to me. Especially when I reflect on my various experiences with the Tempe/Campus Police. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a perfect record (not so much as a speeding ticket), the utmost respect for the men and women in our police force, and a number of friends who are officers – but I’ve also seen extremely disappointing behavior by the Tempe/Campus Police. I’ll never forget one occasion where an officer threatened to Tazer me if I didn’t walk faster as I was leaving a house party or a discussion I had with a friend working for campus security as he laughed about the reputation one of the Campus Officers had for excessive Tazering. When dealing with students the rules often get bent. They don’t know their rights, have not accumulated a lot of real world experience and are still viewed by society as youths. It shouldn’t happen but it does. Even in casual interactions with the Campus Police there was always a feeling of disdain or an automatic presumption of guilt. That tone was completely different than the helpful, open sincere vibes I’ve received from the other Valley police.

My goal isn’t to harp on the Tempe/Campus Police, rather my goal is to offer some basic perspective as a recent grad on the environment and student/officer relationship on campus and why – beyond the issues of rights, safety, and common sense – assault rifles and ASU shouldn’t mix.

I know assault rifles are cool – but let’s face it, are students really THAT scary?

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

17 Comments

  • Ryan
    March 6, 2008

    I totally agree on basically this whole article. I go to Northern Arizona University, and I’ll shine a perspective from up north.

    Flagstaff police have their police station very close to campus as well, a little further than 1000 feet, but it’s not a 10 minute wait for cops to show up from the police department.

    I never see NAU police just walking around conversing with students. They do show up to sporting events, and CJ majors would go up and talk to them, but it’s never just a random thing to go around talking to students. You don’t see them walking around campus. You see them driving on the crowded streets where you can barely ride a bike on without being in danger of being hit by a car.

    There are some good things that NAU has done to help promote safety on campus though.

    For instance, NAU Alert. This is a mass text messaging system that sends a text message to cell phones that have signed up for the program in case of an emergency. The one time I have seen it used is when a bank robbery took place just off campus, and the alleged perpetrator fled from the bank towards the direction of campus. They sent out a text message with a description of the perpetrator and to keep an eye out in case because he was armed.

    This is probably the best way situations like other colleges and schools across the country have faced. Just let people know what is going on.

    At night, Criminal Justice(CJ earlier in my comment) majors, wander campus in pairs showing just a presence of safety. NAU has had females raped outside of doorms in the past, and this is just a good way to help prevent certain situations like this with just a presence of safety.

    NAU also has blue emergency lights littered around campus with a phone. You just press the button, and the light goes off and sends a signal to the NAU police department with which emergency phone was hit. Much like in the movie The Butterfly Effect when Ashton Kutcher basically smashed a guys face in with a baseball bat. The idea with these emergency lights is at night, when you are at one blue light, you can see another in the distance, so you can run from light to light pressing the buttons and the police can track your movement and get to you or get to you while you are in route to another light. It’s not a sure fire system, because something might happen before the police get there, but it’s a step in the right direction that’s for sure.

    As far as assault rifles for the police. This is a stupid idea. How often are the police there before half of a class is shot up? The gunfire happens, then the police show up. I don’t see the need for them. There are much better uses for all that money raised besides purchasing assault rifles.

    Reply
  • Ryan
    March 5, 2008

    I totally agree on basically this whole article. I go to Northern Arizona University, and I’ll shine a perspective from up north.

    Flagstaff police have their police station very close to campus as well, a little further than 1000 feet, but it’s not a 10 minute wait for cops to show up from the police department.

    I never see NAU police just walking around conversing with students. They do show up to sporting events, and CJ majors would go up and talk to them, but it’s never just a random thing to go around talking to students. You don’t see them walking around campus. You see them driving on the crowded streets where you can barely ride a bike on without being in danger of being hit by a car.

    There are some good things that NAU has done to help promote safety on campus though.

    For instance, NAU Alert. This is a mass text messaging system that sends a text message to cell phones that have signed up for the program in case of an emergency. The one time I have seen it used is when a bank robbery took place just off campus, and the alleged perpetrator fled from the bank towards the direction of campus. They sent out a text message with a description of the perpetrator and to keep an eye out in case because he was armed.

    This is probably the best way situations like other colleges and schools across the country have faced. Just let people know what is going on.

    At night, Criminal Justice(CJ earlier in my comment) majors, wander campus in pairs showing just a presence of safety. NAU has had females raped outside of doorms in the past, and this is just a good way to help prevent certain situations like this with just a presence of safety.

    NAU also has blue emergency lights littered around campus with a phone. You just press the button, and the light goes off and sends a signal to the NAU police department with which emergency phone was hit. Much like in the movie The Butterfly Effect when Ashton Kutcher basically smashed a guys face in with a baseball bat. The idea with these emergency lights is at night, when you are at one blue light, you can see another in the distance, so you can run from light to light pressing the buttons and the police can track your movement and get to you or get to you while you are in route to another light. It’s not a sure fire system, because something might happen before the police get there, but it’s a step in the right direction that’s for sure.

    As far as assault rifles for the police. This is a stupid idea. How often are the police there before half of a class is shot up? The gunfire happens, then the police show up. I don’t see the need for them. There are much better uses for all that money raised besides purchasing assault rifles.

    Reply
  • Lander
    March 6, 2008

    That texting idea is fkin sweet. It would have been hilarious to see every single student whip out their cell phones at the same time in the middle of class.

    Reply
  • Lander
    March 6, 2008

    That texting idea is fkin sweet. It would have been hilarious to see every single student whip out their cell phones at the same time in the middle of class.

    Reply
  • Joshua Zeidner
    March 7, 2008

    hi, I ran across your blog via readphoenix.com.

    I agree completely with your statements. Apparently we need top security on campus, but as a friendly border patrol agent recently informed me, a voter registration card will not get you across the border because /anyone can obtain one/!

    these kind of progressions in America can only be described with on word: Fascism.

    Reply
  • Joshua Zeidner
    March 7, 2008

    hi, I ran across your blog via readphoenix.com.

    I agree completely with your statements. Apparently we need top security on campus, but as a friendly border patrol agent recently informed me, a voter registration card will not get you across the border because /anyone can obtain one/!

    these kind of progressions in America can only be described with on word: Fascism.

    Reply
  • Empty
    May 17, 2008

    Folks, let me give you some facts…I work closely with the ASU Police. They are highly trained and dedicated officers. The ASU Police were one of the first agencies in the state to train Active Shooter response after Columbine. ASU Police officers are AZPOST certified police. They attend the same academy as Phoenix and the AZ DPS. Their officers attend pre and post academy training as well as 16 weeks of field training. The Department is an Internationally Accredited Law Enforcement agency. The 40 hours of rifle training is initial training (standard for AZ police agencies), with continuing training on-going. Several ASU cops are former military and many have prior law enforcement experience before being hired at ASU. Also, nowhere in the article does it state that these tools will PREVENT a school shooting. It is just a weapon to help the police better respond. ASU is an open campus with no walls, an active shooter can do a lot of damage before the cops arrive. Once they do arrive, I am glad the ASU Police have the firepower to neutralize the suspect(s) and save my ass.

    Reply
  • Empty
    May 17, 2008

    Folks, let me give you some facts…I work closely with the ASU Police. They are highly trained and dedicated officers. The ASU Police were one of the first agencies in the state to train Active Shooter response after Columbine. ASU Police officers are AZPOST certified police. They attend the same academy as Phoenix and the AZ DPS. Their officers attend pre and post academy training as well as 16 weeks of field training. The Department is an Internationally Accredited Law Enforcement agency. The 40 hours of rifle training is initial training (standard for AZ police agencies), with continuing training on-going. Several ASU cops are former military and many have prior law enforcement experience before being hired at ASU. Also, nowhere in the article does it state that these tools will PREVENT a school shooting. It is just a weapon to help the police better respond. ASU is an open campus with no walls, an active shooter can do a lot of damage before the cops arrive. Once they do arrive, I am glad the ASU Police have the firepower to neutralize the suspect(s) and save my ass.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    May 18, 2008

    Good insights, but I can’t say it’s changed my mind. Especially, since the new Campus Police station has been completed and opened located near College and Apache. The double coverage from both stations easily covers the heart of the campus. If I was able to walk across campus in 15 minutes, anyone responding from these stations by car would be able to cover the campus in 1/3 of that time…max.

    At issue isn’t the officers training. It’s their behavior in general, and how the assault rifles are being distributed. As i believe i mentioned in the post – the PD coverage of ASU’s campus is very thorough. Putting assault rifles in the police vehicles is like putting a full suit of riot gear in every police car’s trunk.

    To be direct, I suppose part of the issue is that it IS the Tempe/ASU police department. I really don’t have any respect left for them. I want to be clear, that i’m not talking about the greater valley’s police departments, but Tempe specifically. It may just be a few bad apples, but the quality of the individuals working for Tempe/ASU are suspect. Just in the past month I’ve been witness to two more negative experiences. Both were pointless, uncalled for and put the health and well being of the citizens involved in danger.

    I appreciate the fact that Tempe based officers have to deal with college students and a lot of crap. That said, the quality of the individual’s I’ve seen is sub-grade and the argument is garbage. It’s like a zoo keeper who hates animals and then acts shocked/complains about having to work with them.

    Reply
  • Alex Berger
    May 18, 2008

    Good insights, but I can’t say it’s changed my mind. Especially, since the new Campus Police station has been completed and opened located near College and Apache. The double coverage from both stations easily covers the heart of the campus. If I was able to walk across campus in 15 minutes, anyone responding from these stations by car would be able to cover the campus in 1/3 of that time…max.

    At issue isn’t the officers training. It’s their behavior in general, and how the assault rifles are being distributed. As i believe i mentioned in the post – the PD coverage of ASU’s campus is very thorough. Putting assault rifles in the police vehicles is like putting a full suit of riot gear in every police car’s trunk.

    To be direct, I suppose part of the issue is that it IS the Tempe/ASU police department. I really don’t have any respect left for them. I want to be clear, that i’m not talking about the greater valley’s police departments, but Tempe specifically. It may just be a few bad apples, but the quality of the individuals working for Tempe/ASU are suspect. Just in the past month I’ve been witness to two more negative experiences. Both were pointless, uncalled for and put the health and well being of the citizens involved in danger.

    I appreciate the fact that Tempe based officers have to deal with college students and a lot of crap. That said, the quality of the individual’s I’ve seen is sub-grade and the argument is garbage. It’s like a zoo keeper who hates animals and then acts shocked/complains about having to work with them.

    Reply
  • Accredited Distance Learning
    April 21, 2009

    That's a very useful article. I will be sure to send it around to my friends over at facebook and myspace.

    Reply
  • Sam
    June 9, 2009

    I just came across this and am amazed at the uninformed words here.

    Alex, – are you talking about the Tempe Police or the ASU Police? They are two completely different agencies. I've worked with several PD's in differing states and ASU cops are about the friendliest I've run across. Many of them are students themselves.

    FYI – many officers DO carry riot gear in their patrol cars. Why? For the same reason the assault rifles will be in there- fast deployment of that tool. It is the same reason the shotgun is in the car, the same reason their PPE (personal protective equipment) is in there, the same reason the first aid kits and AED's are in there – faster deployement and response. Seconds save lives – whether it be deploying a trauma dressing, or a rifle.

    “…he laughed about the reputation one of the Campus Officers had for excessive Tazering.” I'm pretty sure that the ASU Police TASER usage is very low – check their use of force stats, they are public record. I just might go and check for myself out of curiousity 🙂

    A patrol officer's effectiveness lies in his ability to respond quickly. Should an active shooter event occur, a lot of time would be spent going to the police department, unlocking a gun locker, loading a rifle and responding to the scene. Having the rifle in the squad car is the only option that makes sense.
    ~Sam

    P.S. If you have such negative interactions with the police, why not report it? There are several options to report abuse of authority inside and outside the police department. Or is it easier to just whine on a blog?

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    June 10, 2009

    First. This post is over a year old. With recent completion of several additional structures – as i'm sure you are well aware there are a number of different departments and facilities that now cover the northern part of campus as well as the southern part.

    Further, my respect for the Tempe Police depart has continued to be shattered by their actions. I too would be curious to see Tempe and ASU's use of force stats respectively.

    I can think of at least 2 incidents at least since this post was last written where the actions of the Tempe PD have put myself or those with me in potentially direct physical harm. One of which nearly was the cause OF a small riot and did result in my reporting the incident. After which I did notice several changes in policy go into effect.

    As I mentioned please provide links to the stats. I'd like to see them. Either way, however, I trust my personal experience far more than I trust the story the statistics may tell. When I feel threatened, am threatened or feel as though I've been put in jeopardy something is wrong.

    I don't even have so much as a speeding ticket.

    BTW which police force do you work for? Given your e-mail i'm going to assume you're under the age of 26?

    Reply
  • Sam
    December 12, 2009

    Alexberger, I am sorry to hear about your interactions with the Tempe Police. The original article is about the ASU Police Department, not Tempe (again, two completely separate agencies).

    Although, the Tempe Police would respond to an emergency on campus, they do not take calls for service or enforce laws at ASU (a state reservation). I am glad you reported those problems to the Tempe Police.

    I'm not certain that either the Tempe Police or the ASU Police have any real control as to where their stations are built. That decision is usually made at higher levels of goverment. I agree that quick response is always important; thus the comments on carrying equipment with them, in patrol cars, as opposed to “at the station”.

    I'm not certain why my age matters, but I am over 50. I do not work for a police department, but did once upon a time in the Chicago area. I have my doctorate. I do work with the various police agencies in the valley and I have found the ASU Police to be a dedicated, professional and highly trained agency. I feel safe at ASU and you should too.

    Reply
  • Sam
    December 12, 2009

    “There are much better uses for all that money raised besides purchasing assault rifles.” Friend, there are a lot better uses for police officers too, but until people start living up to their civic responsibility, we'll still need them and the tax money they use. Trust me, you'll want them to have the rifles if some maniac comes to kill you and your loved ones.

    Reply
  • Sam
    December 13, 2009

    Alexberger, I am sorry to hear about your interactions with the Tempe Police. The original article is about the ASU Police Department, not Tempe (again, two completely separate agencies).

    Although, the Tempe Police would respond to an emergency on campus, they do not take calls for service or enforce laws at ASU (a state reservation). I am glad you reported those problems to the Tempe Police.

    I'm not certain that either the Tempe Police or the ASU Police have any real control as to where their stations are built. That decision is usually made at higher levels of goverment. I agree that quick response is always important; thus the comments on carrying equipment with them, in patrol cars, as opposed to “at the station”.

    I'm not certain why my age matters, but I am over 50. I do not work for a police department, but did once upon a time in the Chicago area. I have my doctorate. I do work with the various police agencies in the valley and I have found the ASU Police to be a dedicated, professional and highly trained agency. I feel safe at ASU and you should too.

    Reply
  • Sam
    December 13, 2009

    “There are much better uses for all that money raised besides purchasing assault rifles.” Friend, there are a lot better uses for police officers too, but until people start living up to their civic responsibility, we'll still need them and the tax money they use. Trust me, you'll want them to have the rifles if some maniac comes to kill you and your loved ones.

    Reply

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