Split Decision: Campus officers ill-prepared for action

In the United States, law enforcement is a necessary component of our criminal justice system that exists for three essential functions: maintaining order, enforcing the law of the land and providing myriad of basic services when necessary—anything from administering first aid to encouraging drug prevention at an elementary school.

Men and women of U.S. law enforcement are, ideally, individuals who exhibit high moral character and are trained in such a manner that ensures when they take action, they’re preserving the safety of the people that pay their salaries—your everyday, tax-paying citizen and their family.

But when an officer of the law is recorded pepper-spraying a group of peacefully assembled students in a demeanor that suggests he’s unconcerned with the physical damage induced by his actions, when does the armament of an officer cease being a security measure and become a safety hazard?

This is a serious and familiar question that necessitates examination in light of controversy surrounding the actions and decisions of University of California, Davis police in at a recent Occupy Davis protest. It’s not the first, nor will it be the last, instance of an officer utilizing violent action to address a non-violent, albeit potentially volatile, environment.

The problem is this: the majority of campus police officers are simply not equipped to handle the pressures of a high-risk situation.

To be clear, I am not condemning the instruction and development of officers belonging to any precinct—I’m of the opinion that the majority of law enforcement is considerably well-disciplined to handle the rigors of their daily duties.

I am suggesting the training and job requirements of a campus police officer cannot serve as a realistic situation.” fire, especially with a weapon.

The intense, rigorous boot camp of U.S. Marines can only provide a simulation of the dangers they’ll encounter, but cannot ensure sound decision-making in the context of a real firefight—the same rings true for law enforcement.

A campus police officer, according to the Los Rios District Police Department’s website, is dedicated to crime prevention, the protection of life and property and the preservation of peace and order.

The duties of a campus police officer include: keeping mischievous students in check, enforcing institutional policies, keeping tabs on parking and driving hazards and securing programs and events on campus–not safeguarding hundreds upon hundreds of people.

If the most common criminal offenses they encounter are drug law violations an motor vehicle theft, how can we expect them to handle their weapons responsibly in situations they’ve never encountered?