GWU Arms Its Police, Despite Kumbaya Objections

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GWU Arms Its Police, Despite Kumbaya Objections; It Now Joins Overwhelming Majority of Major Universities

GWU Arms Its Police

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 23, 2023) – Just before classes begin, George Washington University [GWU] has defiantly announced that it is moving ahead to arm some of its police officers, despite somewhat illogical opposition from a small number of students and faculty. Community Feedback Continues to Guide Campus Safety Planning

Curiously, this move was not reported in GWU’s student newspaper, nor in the customary email notices sent to the faculty, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf of the GWU Law School.

When GWU first announced that it was going to arm only some of its police officers – in contrast to most universities where all of its officers are armed – some student organizations also objected to these plans, arguing that arming even some GWU police would endanger everyone except for rich White suburbanites.

More specifically they argued that “GW is arming GWPD, a private police force that CONTINUES to assault and harm students . . . This is an attack on black and brown students . . . This is an attack on the poor and the working class. This is an attack on DC residents, who will almost certainly be brutalized by an armed GWPD.”

Also, some 200 of its faculty claimed that having some GWU police armed is “more likely to reduce safety rather than enhance it.”

But this assertion by faculty members is contradicted by the overwhelming majority of GWU’s peer universities – as well as a clear majority of all universities – to arm their police, notes Banzhaf, a former security office and security consultant who recently published a detailed study of mass shootings on campus.

Kumbaya To Deal With Crazy Shooters 

Instead these GWU faculty members – including faculty teaching Writing, Arts & Design, Studio Art, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, etc. – recommend Kumbaya (“a term of derision, having been associated with what are considered naïve and unrealistic attitudes”) approaches such as utilizing the “dignity of all people,” “deep empathy,” “nonviolent communication,” and “bystander intervention skills” to deal with crazed shooters on campus.

But the extent to which faculty opinion on this controversial issue is well informed is suggested by a recent survey which showed that virtually nobody on the faculty even knows how to lock classroom doors in the event of an active-shooter-on-campus alert, and that the Faculty Senate has refused to take any position on a variety of safety-related proposals over a period of many years, says Banzhaf.

Moreover, as the professor points out, deranged-shooter-on-campus situations elsewhere have had to be resolved by the use of deadly force – either to neutralize the shooter or to pressure him to shoot himself – and not by deep empathy, dignity illumination and enhancement, intervention skills, nonviolent communication, or restorative justice and weaponless civilian protection units.

There is also no support for the claim that having some GWU police armed is “more likely to reduce safety rather than enhance it.” Indeed, with all the school shootings which have occurred over at least the past 20 years, they failed to cite a single situation where an armed campus police officer shot a student or faulty member on campus.

Ironically, one of the protesting GWU faculty members asked (presumably rhetorically): “Where on [GWU’s] campus and in D.C. are the academic centers, like those at Johns Hopkins and Rutgers universities, that dedicate themselves to researching the causes of and solutions to gun violence.”

Arming Campus Police

Prof. Banzhaf’s answer was simple and very telling: “Although – and perhaps even because – Johns Hopkins and Rutgers universities do research about solutions to gun violence, they have both reached the same studied conclusion that one way to reduce gun violence is to arm some of their own police, just as GWU is doing.”

Moreover, the claim that having armed guards does nothing to protect people and discourage criminal violence is also clearly at variance with the conclusions and experience of most universities which now arm their police, and literally tens of thousands of banks, governmental bodies, large corporations, and even individuals (from the President to movie stars) who are concerned about attacks from gunman and other criminals, and therefore have armed guards.

Even churches, traditionally bastions of peace and nonviolence, seem to agree, with a majority of Protestant churches (54%) now having persons with guns to protect against mass shooters; a figure which increases to 74% for larger churches (250+ in attendance).

Thus, despite these objections from a few “leftist students” and some on its own faculty, GWU has now joined the overwhelming percentage of universities which have concluded that having at least a few members of its police force equipped with guns is more likely to deter crazed shooters, and to deal with them promptly if they do appear on campus, than to endanger everyone except for rich White suburbanites.