Portland State’s Campus Public Safety officers will start carrying Tasers this summer. Are such measures really necessary? It doesn’t seem so. Despite claims made by CPSO, there do not seem to be enough instances of violence on campus to warrant use of the weapons.
According to Mike Soto, Chief of Campus Public Safety, only three or four of the 200 arrests made last year would have warranted the use of a Taser. With use of the weapons being warranted in only 2 percent of all campus arrests.
Another concern lies in the way that Tasers will be used on campus. While Soto has given clear guidelines surrounding when, exactly, the use of Tasers will be approved, there is great potential for the weapons being misused.
A clear example of this possibility can be found in today’s article by Art Chenoweth. Within his story, one of the situations that CPSO uses to defend the need for Tasers is described as follows: “A man with a knife was confronted in the Smith Memorial Student Union basement. Pepper spray did not subdue him and the officer was aided by two construction workers to control the suspect.”
To us, that sounds an awful lot like the case of Derrick Brame.
On December 31, 2002, Brame was in the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union when a construction worker called CPSO to report his presence. A campus security officer soon responded to the call and approached Brame. In the end, he was pepper sprayed and then wrestled to the ground by the security officer and two construction workers (one of whom made the original call). At the time, CPSO claimed he was carrying a knife in a threatening manner. When the arrest was challenged, the court found him innocent.
If the a Taser had been employed, Brame would have likely been subjected to a five-second shock at 50,000 volts, which would have caused him to experience extreme pain, disorientation and a temporary loss of muscle control.
While sympathetic to the dangers of working to protect students on this urban campus, we question whether allowing officers to carry Tasers will aid in reducing those dangers.
What we cannot question is that these devices cost $799 each. With the intention of buying 4 or more, that’s no chump change.
We implore CPSO and the university to reconsider this decision, and hope that the relatively safe PSU campus remains so for both students and officers alike.