QUEENSBURY NY June 6 2017 — The issue of arming SUNY Adirondack campus police officers with stun guns, or even with firearms, is not completely decided, even after a college board of trustees vote late last month.
“We are just beginning to review the costs associated with Tasers as well as a timeline,” President Kristine Duffy said in an email response to questions about the cost and timeline for the stun guns. “We are considering all aspects of campus safety and the arming of our sworn campus safety peace officers is still under discussion.”
When asked if opposition by some professors had an impact on the decision on stun guns, she replied, “The board and the president have carefully considered all voices on campus.”
The day after the board meeting, Duffy sent an email to all faculty and staff members announcing the decision.
Duffy said the board had unanimously accepted the following resolution: “Endorse the President’s recommendation to increase campus safety measures by pursuing the issuance of stun guns (Tasers) for Campus Safety Peace Officers and an assessment of a campus-wide locking system.”
Two of the louder voices opposing arming officers said they also oppose the stun-gun initiation, and another longtime English professor added his voice as well.
“One of the things I resented was that all the presentations given to staff, faculty and students at our school were all pro-arming. There was no balance,” Stuart Barlow said. “No one came to speak to us about potential detriments to arming, which there are. Perhaps omitted from the argument is the probability that local law enforcement would arrive at any emergency situation at about the same time that campus police would arrive, which I understand is estimated at about 10 minutes.”
Jane Arnold, a recently retired professor of English and reading specialist, who had a letter read to the board, was asked by The Post-Star what she thought of the decision and she addressed the question of whether police officers being issued Tasers will make the campus safer.
“My answer would be, how? There are so many other, easier, cheaper, and more sensible ways to make the campus immediately safer than arming the peace officers with Tasers,” she said. “Remote camera surveillance of the res (residence) hall parking lot, for one thing, was a suggestion that a campus peace officer told me the college administration had already rejected. Providing every single building with an adequately stocked first-aid kit (something besides Band-Aids, and including an EpiPen) and training someone to use the tools is another.”
She said the decision does “make everyone feel warm and fuzzy about having achieved an undocumented and rushed compromise.”
But as someone pointed out to her, “It doesn’t seem to address either being safe from a hypothetical random shooter or increasing other issues of campus security.”
Adjunct Professor Neal Herr, also in the English Department, said he was glad the board did not vote to issue guns to the officers, but remained unsure about the Tasers and the way the decision was made.
The board held much of its discussion on the stun-gun resolution in executive session, meaning only members of the board were allowed and the public was excluded.
SUNY Adirondack spokesman Doug Gruse explained, in an email, the board’s reasoning for discussing the stun-gun issue in executive session:
“The topic of the college providing required equipment to employees in a bargaining unit is a mandatory subject of bargaining,” he wrote in an email after a request for the reason the issue was not discussed in public. “As such, it is a proper topic for an executive session because it concerns a topic that is subject to collective negotiations, pursuant to Article 14 of the Civil Service Law (the Taylor Law).”
Discussions about topics that relate to Article 14 are specifically allowed as executive session topics, according to state law.