|February 18, 2000||Volume 7, Number 11|
Prof. says no to pepper spray, yes to more visible officersBy Colin Boyd
The Universitys security services employees have suspended their various activities, including the monitoring of parking and traffic on campus, while they press their claim to be able to carry pepper spray on duty.
As yet there has not been a debate amongst the members of the campus community about the merits of the security officers claim that pepper spray is essential for their safety in carrying out their duties on the University of Saskatchewan campus. By writing this article I would like to initiate such a debate.
I am of the opinion that it is not appropriate for security officers on this campus (or on any campus in Canada) to be armed with pepper spray it offends my concept what the general culture of a institute of higher learning should be like, and I consider that it is a massive over-reaction to the day-to-day context of the security of the University. In my 22 years on this campus I have yet to see any incident which warranted the physical restraint of one individual by another, let alone the use of an offensive weapon.
Last week in my MBA class on Business Ethics I raised with my students the issue of the security officers demand to be able to carry pepper spray. One of the replies, from a female, was most enlightening.
She said that she would have no problem with the security officers carrying pepper spray if they were more conspicuously evident in the kinds of places where people such as she may be attacked at night, patrolling on foot in the parking lots and the darker corners of campus. She said that she had never, ever seen a security officer on foot in any of the kinds of places where she could be attacked, and that since they were never to be seen in places where an attacker would be deterred or confronted, there was no reason for them to have an offensive weapon such as pepper spray.
After class I began to think more about her comments, and about the lack of visibility of the security officers. Sure, there are security officers roving around campus on their bikes in the summer, but when was the last time you saw one just ambling around on foot in the winter, when the campus is at its most populated, and at its darkest?
It seems to me as if the campus security officers, like their city police counterparts, are these days all locked up in their shiny new patrol vehicles, keeping as far away as possible from the majority of walking areas on campus, and just waiting for the radio call that sends them to some emergency. In the meantime they can play with their new radar guns, and turn on their flashing police lights when the prospect of a juicy car chase arises.
Somehow it seems as if the culture of the security services on this campus has mutated, and that the security officers have come to see themselves as just one more police force which needs all the apparatus and accoutrements of the modern cop. Will they ask for bullet-proof vests next?
I think that the culture of the campus security officers is in need of radical change. They should get rid of the squad cars, the flashing lights, the sirens, the radar guns, the billy clubs, the police-like uniforms. They should dress in some more modest, less hostile uniform; perhaps in green to echo our Universitys dominant colour?
There are other ways of policing vehicles on campus roads other than using patrol cars, such as the use of asphalt bumps to control speed. The security officers should get out of the warm wombs of their cop-cars, and out into the midst of the walking population of the University, where their duty is to make us feel secure about our individual welfare and about the protection of our individual and collective property. They do not need pepper spray to make us feel secure.Colin Boyd is a Professor of Management in the U of S College of Commerce.
See related story, February 4 issue of OCN
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