Forum discusses arming ISU Police

James Heggen and Rebecca Carton/S

Faculty, students and staff concerned about the issue of arming campus police came to a forum armed with their own opinions on the matter.

The Pioneer Room of the Memorial Union was filled with approximately 60 people Friday afternoon to discuss the issue.

Warren Madden, vice president for business and finance, provided a brief background of the issue and an explanation of the timing.

“Last spring, the Legislature passed legislation that required the Board of Regents to make recommendations about campus security, including the issue of arming,” he said.

The recommendations must be completed by Oct. 1 and submitted to the Legislature by Oct. 15. The Regents meeting when the issue of arming ISU Police will be discussed will be held Sept. 18 and 19.

Madden said the decision not to arm campus police was made during the Vietnam War.

“The environment has changed today,” Madden said, comparing today’s university to his time as a student at Iowa State.

He said Iowa State has grown in enrollment, buildings and facilities.

Madden said although ISU Police do not currently carry guns, some private security groups that operate on campus carry firearms.

“We are the only law enforcement entity in the state of Iowa today that don’t have our professionally certified, trained [and] authorized public safety officers and police carrying firearms,” he said. “We do not believe it will change the environment at Iowa State.”

Jerry Stewart, director of public safety, said the campus is “relatively safe,” but also that campus officers should be armed.

He said the training campus officers receive is the same as other law enforcement officers.

After the floor was opened to questions, Bradley Anderson, senior in sociology and Government of the Student Body senator, said there are services on campus, such as counseling services, to help prevent possible situations that would require an armed response.

“To give police officers guns . is almost a knee-jerk reaction to Virginia Tech,” he said.

Stewart said the amount of resources on campus was “tremendous” and that police work and will continue to work with those resources.

“We’ve been studying this issue for a long time, long before Virginia Tech,” Stewart said.

Madden agreed that resources on campus should be utilized, but said nonstudents are on campus, as well.

“Unfortunately, we’re 30 miles from the intersection of two major interstates, and we have lots of people coming through Ames, passing through campus,” he said.

In response to a question posed by Anderson about the benefit of arming officers when they have a relationship with Ames Police, Madden said the improvement of response time would be a benefit.

Hogan Martin, lecturer of materials science and engineering, also voiced his opinion.

“The culture of fear has been cultivated by major media outlets who have disproportionate influence on the general population and everyone’s perception of the world,” he said.

Martin said the cost-effective way to captivate an audience is by the “broadcasting and sensationalization of tragedy.”

Not everyone in attendance was opposed to the idea of arming campus police.

“I think we have to face the reality of where life is today,” said Lynne Mumm, technology commercial specialist for the Institute of Physical Research and Technology. “We’re putting these staff members in harm’s way.”