Armed Campus Police on Clark University’s Campus Raises Eyebrows

David Covarrubias, Scarlet Staff

Some Clark students believe, unequivocally, that armed police are not needed on our campus, and that the arming of University Police stokes fear amidst deep strife around the country.

 This past Friday, students were questioned throughout the University campus about their stance on armed University Police Officers.

First-year Annie Zimmerman does not see a point to a policing force on campus and believes resources should be re-allocated to other departments on campus.

 “I don’t think they have a purpose on campus because anything happening on campus shouldn’t be dealt with using police officers with loaded weapons,” she told The Scarlet late Friday.

 A handful of Clark students, like a first-year named Alex, believe with conviction that campus police should not be equipped with a loaded weapon. He comments that he and other students fear the campus police.

 “It makes me feel intimidated,” notes Alex, a student of Clark. “They have guns and are driving their cruiser late at night.”Another student notes that she does not know why police even have a say in the discipline of college students.

 She affirms that “it should be entirely left up to the University’s Administration, or dean of students. Having a police officer who has a loaded weapon present in this current climate, is just not right.”

 Police brutality has not been placed on the back burner in the minds of many Clarkies. It is notable that, in early June, four Clark students were arrested by Worcester Police for events following a late-night, peaceful Black Lives Matter protest. Per the report of the Independent Review of Clark Student Arrests, it was found that pepper spray, mace, and riot gear were used by WPD to subdue protesters.

The arrests sparked outrage among the Clark community. While the four students simply witnessed what was occurring and did not willfully participate in the altercation – they were still arrested.

Clark students, as well as an immeasurable amount of individuals around the country, were distraught when once again, police officers seriously injured a young black man in late August.

Jacob Blake, a resident of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot by armed police while trying to resolve an altercation between two men. Blake was hospitalized and is still recovering from multiple traumatic injuries to his back. He is currently paralyzed. His shooting furthered resentment towards police officers and added more fuel to the fire amid protests against unnecessary police brutality. 

 Although the shooting of Jacob Blake did not take place on a University Campus, multiple students fear that given the means, Campus Police will take similar actions against them.

Minorities are especially adverse to police brutality as they are, more often than not, the victims of it. As we have been seeing, the broader issue of systemic racism against minorities by police officers is more significant than ever.

 Clark University, where a large percentage of students are minorities, is a place where individuals should feel protected by law enforcement – but many do not.

 “I don’t think they are here protecting minorities,” notes first-year student, Noam Horn.

 Horn is an Israeli born student who knows first-hand what the dangers of law enforcement can entail – especially the ways that some police officers disparage minorities.

 She knows, personally, that “there has not been one time that I wasn’t looked at differently or treated differently from law enforcement because of the way I looked.”

 “It is not like I have power or say over them because I fear they will pull their gun out.”

 After a moment of thinking, she concludes: “the police are not on our side.”

 Students often see, late at night, campus police at work, patrolling the streets, and doing routine drive-by checks around campus. Although the University Police officers are present in their offices – located in the first-year dormitory basement of Bullock Hall- some students still feel their dominance and authority outside of their designated space.

 “When I am walking late at night, I see University Police perched up on student walkways that are used by students to walk home,” another student notes. 

 “We have to walk around the cruisers sometimes.”

 The University’s Police website affirms that the department’s goal is to “help create an exceptionally safe, secure campus for students and faculty to focus intently on excellent academics, research, and public service.”

 It should be noted, aside from the University Police being armed, beneficial services are provided and are suggested by Clark’s Administration to keep the student body safe – some of which include late-night escorts and the campus blue light system. Campus police are present to provide overall safety to the campus.

 Additionally, students should not refrain from involving campus police if a situation is life-threatening or serious, which their website notes in the “Safety Tips” tab.

 In aggregate, Campus Police are here to provide safety to the campus. Though, with the unsettling events that continue to transpire across the country, students call into question the weaponed arming of University Police.