Taser panel sparks dissent

Conflicting opinions over whether campus officers should carryTasers came to a head in a moderated panel debate yesterday at PSU.Support from the PSU administration and Campus Public Safety (CPSO)met overwhelming opposition from students.

Two students and one professor sounded off against the purchaseand use of Tasers; one administrator and two campus officers spokein support. When asked if students’ opposition would be considered,pro-Taser panelists offered vague answers.

Those in opposition to Tasers cited the need to invest in crimeprevention on campus. “There are many alternatives to Tasers,” saidJason Lowery, an administration of justice major. Lowery listedsome practical alternatives, such as encouraging students to walkin pairs when leaving the Millar Library at night and conductingstudent safety workshops.

PSU student and panelist Cynna Doyle advocated the expansion ofthe blue box emergency phones and an after hours shuttle to theGoose Hollow housing complex.

“There are more positive ways to spend the money,” Doylesaid.

Jay Kenton, vice president for finance and administration, willmake the final decision whether to purchase the Tasers at $799apiece. Kenton called Tasers a preventative tool against the injuryof campus officers.

Director of Campus Public Safety Michael Soto cited examples ofofficers injured from close contact with resisting criminalsuspects. Taser proponents pointed out that the devices can be usedfrom a distance, hence limiting the chances of an injury to campusofficers. Soto also noted that most crime on campus is committed bynon-students.

Kenton commented that he favors obtaining Tasers “to make surethe people who work for me have the appropriate materials to dotheir job.”

“Campus Public Safety fears for themselves more than students,”Lowery said.

PSU professor Darrell Millner addressed student fear of theTaser’s prospects. “If you have it, you will use it,” Millner said.”People of color have experienced this … there is anunderestimation about how people of color feel about Tasers.”

“It’s about keeping the students and campus safe,” Kentoninsisted. “One more resource at our disposal could overt dangeroussituations for out community.”

Millner responded to Kenton’s comment by saying, “no amount ofequipment is going to make students feel safer… there is noelement more important than psychological safety.”

Along with issues surrounding safety on campus, studentsquestioned Kenton and Soto on issues of student involvement in thedecisions around Tasers.

Kenton and Soto mentioned the creation of a policy around theuse of Tasers and a review board who will examine the uses of theweapon. An unidentified student from the audience responded saying,”We wanted to be involved in the process … [the administration]continued to develop policy and procedure without the input ofstudents and staff.”

Kenton replied, “We haven’t been trying to do this covertly. Wehave been doing this intentionally overtly.” Kenton citeddiscussions with ASPSU and the Vanguard as attempts to “not beclosed minded on this.”

Doyle suggested such outreach attempts were not adequate, saying”When you think of students, don’t think of student government, alot of us in this room don’t feel like we’re represented by thestudent government.”

Caine Lowery seconded Doyle’s skepticism about theadministration’s involvement of students, saying the administrationonly came to students after having already made the decision.”That’s what you’re doing, come to us before you makedecisions.”

A representative from Students for Unity summed up thepermeating feeling among students present by asking, “What are yougoing to do to take our opinions into account?”

Kenton, in his closing statement said, “I have heard what yousaid. I haven’t made a decision yet. I will wait to do that untilafter we debrief.”