Can Campus Safety Use Force On Students?

Graphic by Jordan Wong

As the Yule Ball descended into chaos last semester and students forced their way past Campus Safety officers, the officers remained generally calm and tried to use their bodies to block the students. However, Campus Safety policy would have permitted them to use force against the students if they felt threatened, according to Director of Campus Safety Stan Skipworth.

“It is important to remember that threats and security concerns are a very real part of the ongoing work that we do,” Skipworth wrote in an email to TSL.

According to Skipworth, in addition to investigating suspicious activity, officers must also be prepared to defend themselves and others. Although officers are trained to de-escalate situations whenever possible, situations in which danger is immediate have to be handled differently, he wrote.

In such instances, Campus Safety also requests back up from the Claremont Police Department, Skipworth added. Although Campus Safety has the ability to apprehend criminals, according to its website, it is not a law enforcement agency.

For example, Skipworth cited an instance where Campus Safety officers were required to chase a subject 200 yards after he struck another officer. During the incident, the CPD assisted Campus Safety.

“The Campus Safety officer required medical attention for his injuries,” Skipworth wrote. “The subject was charged with battery.”

Sam Horowitz PZ ’20 said he supports the policy.

“I think that they should be able to use force if a person is posing a threat to someone else, or the officer,” Horowitz wrote in a message to TSL. “That being said, I think it should be a last resort.”

However, according to Skipworth, Campus Safety is not a force-focused organization, and officers are trained in a variety of other methods for handling situations. Officers are also trained to incorporate customer service and community-based policing methods.

“Community policing promotes a collaboration, with a goal of working together with the community to proactively identify and solve problems and to develop strategies for reducing the opportunity for crime,” Skipworth wrote.

Campus Safety also works to develop customized security plans for each college. Sergeants in the department are assigned to work one-on-one with the colleges and rotate to a different college every year.

“It provides an opportunity to become more familiar with the college’s culture, as well as with the students, staff, and faculty,” Skipworth wrote.

Officers complete a several-week field training program and the department participates in weekly, monthly, and semi-annual reviews.

Although Horowitz said he believes Campus Safety successfully uses force sparingly, he thinks the department could be more transparent about its policy regarding force.

“I was not aware of [the policy] beforehand, and couldn’t find it online,” Horowitz wrote. “This is something that should change.”

He suggested that Campus Safety publish their policy online and share it more openly.

According to Skipworth, pre-preparation is a critical part of Campus Safety’s work.

“I believe it is … important to assess and review our activities on a daily basis because waiting for significant events is too late,” Skipworth wrote.