Within the past year, the Yuba Community College District Police Department has encountered two separate incidents of a suicidal student with access to a weapon, one incident of a student with a 12-inch knife, as well as several other threatening situations, claims Police Chief Chris Wilkinson in his recent proposal to arm all college police officers with handguns.
According to Wilkinson’s proposal, “The Yuba Community College District is a crisis-prone district and not a crisis-prepared district.”
Currently, six fulltime sworn peace officers patrol the Marysville and Woodland campuses. Like any municipal police force, they are trained to handle everything from auto theft to armed assault.
But there is a visible difference. They do not carry guns.
Only the Yuba College Police Chief, Chris Wilkinson, is permitted to carry a firearm on the Yuba Community College District’s campuses.
Wilkinson’s proposal recommends that all qualified college peace officers be provided with firearms for use on duty. This would only take effect with the written approval of the Chief of Police.
“You’d feel safer if they carry guns. If a psycho comes on campus, what are you gonna do?” asked student Reymundo Diaz. “A cop isn’t a cop without a gun.”
Student Angelo Moseley also agrees with the proposal. “That would be good. Not only the Chief should carry them in case of an emergency.”
Angelo cautioned, however, that the college police “might get too happy with them and start pulling them out for no reason.”
“I don’t agree with the cops carrying guns on campus,” said student Magdalena Mendez. “It’s just students that go here. We’re not criminals here.”
Likewise, Yuba College Counselor Marian Shivers does not agree that police other than the chief should carry guns on the campus. “They just shouldn’t,” she said. “We are a college environment.”
Of the 72 California Community College Districts, only 29 authorize officers to carry handguns, according to information included in Chief Wilkinson’s written proposal. Butte College is one of those that authorize all its officers to carry guns. However, neither the Sierra Community College District nor the Los Rios Community College District authorizes officers to carry handguns.
Wilkinson’s proposal states that the Yuba College Police Department is not equipped to respond nor is it capable of preventing tragedies from occurring. In addition, he argues, “College Peace Officers are at a disadvantage because they are not armed and cannot respond to potentially high-risk law enforcement incidents/situations and not sufficiently armed to protect themselves, staff, students and visitors from violent actions.”
Neil Brookman who is a retired Sergeant from the Yuba City Police Department and a faculty member since 1986 said, “For officer safety issues, it (officers carrying guns on campus) is extremely important. Even though the campus appears to be quiet, there is always a chance that that one of the campus peace officers could face a deadly force situation.”
The U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Security Statistics revealed that in 2003, criminal offenses at the Yuba College Marysville Campus were limited to five burglaries and three motor vehicle thefts. No other criminal offenses were reported in that year. Burglary and motor vehicle theft are the only two types of criminal offenses recorded for 2001 or 2002.
The U.S. Department of Education statistics also reveal that there were no arrests for illegal weapons possession in 2001 or 2003. However, five arrests were made for illegal weapons possession in 2002.
These statistics add to the debate of why guns are or are not needed on campus. Athletic Director and Associate Dean Rod Beilby said that the police deal with things on campus that are not necessarily made public so they may have a legitimate reason to want to carry guns on campus.
However, not all students or faculty agree.
“We don’t need guns because these are students, and you have to be more selective on how you keep the campus safe,” said Yuba College student, Louie Araujo. “Stun guns wouldn’t be a bad alternative.”
Wilkinson will present the controversial proposal to the Academic Senate Thursday, April 21. The meeting will be held in the boardroom, located in the 100 building, at noon. The public is invited to attend.