May 2016 Advocate: AFT 1493 opposes armed police on campus


AFT 1493 Executive Committee unanimously votes NO to armed police on campus

By Janice Sapigao, Skyline College Chapter Co-Chair

At the January 27 Board of Trustees meeting, District administration announced that they are considering employing armed police officers to patrol our college campuses.  The San Mateo Community College District is one of two community college districts in the nine-county Bay Area that do not allow police officers on campus to carry guns. 80% of California community colleges have armed officers. Campus security officers at all three SMCCCD campuses have public safety offices where all officers on campus are equipped with pepper spray and a baton. The AFT Executive Committee, when asked to vote on this issue, unanimously decided to take a stance against the presence of arms on campus. This vote will be shared with the District’s Participatory Governance Council. City College of San Francisco, the other community college without arms on campus, is currently reconsidering its policies.

The AFT 1493 Executive Committee discussed topics related to this issue: the realities of racial profiling, the creation of a culture of fear and violence, and the ways in which our students’ own experiences and trauma inform our decision.

Concern that police may use inappropriate force and do not treat diverse groups equally

In recent years, confidence in law enforcement around the country has been relatively low, especially within minority communities, and large portions of these communities believe police are likely to use excessive force on suspects. According to a Pew/USA Today poll conducted in August 2014, Americans of all races collectively “give relatively low marks to police departments around the country for holding officers accountable for misconduct, using the appropriate amount of force, and treating racial and ethnic groups equally.”

Numerous recent shootings by San Francisco Police have raised the issue close to home

Locally, the San Francisco Police Department has been involved in a series of police-involved shootings of black and Latino men in addition to an investigation that uncovered racist and homophobic texting by several SFPD officers. On May 7, five hunger strikers, dubbed the ‘Frisco Five’ (#Frisco5), ended a 17-day hunger strike, camped in front of the San Francisco Police Department at 17th & Valencia Streets. The ‘Frisco Five’ cited police racism as the reason for the separate shootings of black and brown men including Alex Nieto, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Mario Woods, and Luis Gongora, and they are continuing to call for Police Chief Gregory Suhr to resign in order to end the pattern of racial profiling and alleged police murder in all of these deaths.

These events, which affect students in our district, are important cases to consider in larger discussions of campus security, police presence, and in a nationwide conversation about gun control and school shootings. We urge the Board of Trustees to also vote No on this issue.