Campus Safety Tasers
Campus Safety Explores Use of Tasers
The Department of Campus Safety is proposing to arm officers with conductive energy devices, also known as TASERs, as added protection for the University community.
The Campus Safety Advisory Committee (CSAC), chaired by Summur Roberts, director of Community Relations for Loyola, is working through a comprehensive internal vetting process to include several townhall meetings and presentations with students, faculty and staff.
A TASER is a method of less than lethal force that delivers an incapacitating pulse designed to override the sensory and motor functions of the nervous system. The powerful Neuro Muscular Incapacitation (NMI) technology has been effective against even the most aggressive individuals, including those under the influence of controlled substances.
The pulse delivers a five second burst of energy that leaves a suspect temporarily unable to control his/her muscular function. Muscular function is inhibited for 5 seconds, and there is typically no lasting effect. Many scenarios make a TASER preferable to pepper spray, a toxin that has a longer affect and can easily become airborne, potentially affecting others in the vicinity.
Loyola is investigating the deployment of tasers so that trained officers would have another tool available to them to preserve and protect the University community (faculty, staff and students) and our campuses (property) . It is the practice of Campus Safety to modify and upgrade the tools provided to officers. The interest in tasers has grown after a number of incidents over the years in which this kind of tool would have been preferable and a more effective way to deal with a difficult situation.
According to Robert Fine, Director of Campus Safety, “In the last two years, we have experienced two instances where officers were seriously injured at both campuses. In both cases, the subject was tasered by the Chicago Police officer who arrived on the scene.”
The Department of Campus Safety became a sworn police force in 2005. This distinction gave Campus Police Officers the authorization to carry a firearm and powers to arrest within the jurisdictional boundary of Glenlake Avenue (south), Glenwood Avenue (west), and Pratt Boulevard (north) at the Lake Shore Campus. At the Water Tower Campus, the boundaries are Superior Street (south), Dearborn Street (west), Delaware Street (north) and Michigan Avenue (east). Since that time, a total of 9 officers have graduated from the Chicago Police Academy, several with special recognitions, including “Top Recruit” and “Top Gun.”
Campus Police, comprised of 49 full-time officers and additional support staff, is tasked with the responsibility of keeping campus and the expanded jurisdiction safe. The department provides 24 hour a day, seven day a week security for over 15,000 students, including 4,200 on-campus residents, and another estimated 1,500 living with in the patrol jurisdiction as well as over 4,000 faculty and staff.
Increasing instances of active shooter scenarios on college campuses combined with officer safety concerns has led to the creation of the proposal to pilot and subsequently adopt the initiative.
The timeframe and officer classification who would participate in the pilot is still being determined.
On Monday, February 11, students participated in the first townhall meeting hosted by Unified Student Government Association (USGA). According to Philip-John Puzzo, Safety and Wellness Committee for USGA, “There is a lot of student interest in the issue. Among the students who attended, opinions were split down the middle on whether officers should be armed with TASERs.”
Much of the student concern relates to the circumstances under which the TASERs will be used. Students fear that common student behaviors may suddenly become tase-able offenses. According to Timothy Cunningham, Student Liaison Officer and Chicago Police Academy graduate, “Campus Safety has an excellent record of responsible use of force since becoming a sworn police force. In nearly 8 years, there has only been one single improper discharge of a weapon which occurred during the disassembly process in a controlled environment.”
Currently, Campus Police officers carry pepper spray, impact weapons (collapsible baton), and firearms. Campus Security officers carry pepper spray and an impact weapons. If the proposal is adopted, TASERs would be an additional weapon used as necessary.
Both classifications of officer would receive extensive training on handling, cleaning and firing the weapon, taught by an accredited TASER trainer.
The Use of Force Model, adopted from the Chicago Police Department, stipulates that a TASER can be used on a subject who is considered to be an active resister or an assailant, a person whose movements are to avoid physical control or whose actions are aggressive with or without weapons. Examples include:
- A subject who is wrestling with or otherwise physically engaging in an aggressive manner with an officer;
- A subject who is attempting to flee from officers;
- A subject whose actions are aggressive towards others but does not constitute deadly force.
The Use of Force Model also stipulates that a TASER should never be used on a cooperative subject or a passive resister (i.e. a subject who is participating in a “sit-in” demonstration and refuses to move).
The TASER under consideration comes equipped with a camera that records both audio and video footage any time the safety switch is disengaged. A review panel of appropriate staff, students and faculty would use footage to determine if use was justifiable based upon Use of Force Model and Loyola Campus Police General Order.
As part of the vetting process, the CSAC recommended wide stakeholder engagement to educate the campus-community on the use of TASERs, gather feedback, and adopt a usage policy on Loyola’s lakeside campuses.
Currently, there is no timeline for implementation.