MUN senate asked to reverse gun decision

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Andrew Robinson
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RNC had firearms in class before regulation change; does not apply to cadets

An online petition is calling on members of the public to put pressure on Memorial University’s senate to reverse a recent regulation change made last November allowing on-duty peace officers to carry firearms into class.

Stephen Crocker, an associate professor of sociology at the university, launched the petition at Change.org. As of Sunday afternoon, it had attracted almost 700 supporters.

“I began to ask colleagues around the campus had they heard about this, and absolutely no one I spoke to had heard about this,” said Crocker, who read about the regulation change in a Telegram story published in February and in a letter to the editor by MUN Graduate Students’ Union president Joey Donnelly.

Crocker said students and staff should have been consulted on the matter, arguing the regulation change alters classroom culture and raises safety concerns.

“The key thing is there wasn’t really adequate justification for this change. This change has really come about because the police have asked (to) attend class in uniform because it is inconvenient to change beforehand.”

He contends weapons have no place in a classroom environment and may contribute to an escalation in gun culture on campus.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Supt. James Carroll told The Telegram on-duty officers have attended classes at MUN carrying their holstered weapons for years. He said the regulation change was not requested by the RNC and does not apply to plainclothes officers or police cadets.

“I think a lot of the general public thought that there was a change that the police cadets were the ones that were wearing their sidearm in class, which is not the truth,” said Carroll. “Police cadets are not sworn, certified officers. They will not be issued their firearm until such time that they graduate from the police studies program (in August).”

Crocker argues a section of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s collective agreement gives officers the freedom to take time off for class instead of remaining on duty.

“It seems to me that in that provision there is already a recognition on the part of the police that it is reasonable and desirable that they be off duty when they go to class and that they have the right to under their own collective agreement,” he said.

However, Carroll noted that item in the collective agreement is still at the chief of police’s discretion and subject to the RNC’s operational requirements any given day.

“There’s no guarantee that the officer will even be able to attend classes, bearing operation requirements or the need of the day.”

In the present semester at MUN’s St. John’s campus, no uniformed officers attend classes — most take courses online, according to Carroll.

A process is in place to notify the officer in charge of Campus Enforcement at MUN when a uniformed RNC officer will be taking a class. That message is then relayed to teachers.

“I’ve spoken to a few professors in there, and they haven’t had one student come to them and say, ‘I’ve got a major problem with an officer being in my class with a sidearm on,’” said Carroll.

“From an operational perspective, it doesn’t make sense for that officer to come back to headquarters, get changed into civilian clothes, go to class and then come back. They’re going to be out of commission for three hours, which is not fair to the general public.”

Bert Riggs, who chairs the senate committee on undergraduate studies, said the RNC’s collective agreement was not discussed in the senate.

In his experience, a senate decision has never been the subject of a petition. He added reviewing regulations is not unprecedented.

On the notion officers having guns on campus affects students, Riggs noted representatives of the MUN Students’ Union all voted in favour of the change. He said the presence of uniformed officers on campus has never been restricted to investigations — they can drop by the library or purchase a coffee like any other member of the public.

“The campus has the same rules and regulations as the rest of the area which the police patrol.”

Weblink: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-senate-memorial-university-of-newfoundland-and-labrador-prohibit-all-students-including-on-duty-student-police-officers-from-bringing-weapons-to-class

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Stephen Crocker
    April 09, 2014 - 10:26

    1)It should now be very clear to anyone following this debate that the Senate decision was based on incomplete information about the RNC. By their own admission, senate had not even read the RNC collective agreement. Now they have some unusual interpretation of the key phrases in it. How can that be? Now that everyone knows about clause 29.07 we all know that officers attending class can have "time-off during their regular shift". There is absolutely nothing else in the RNC collective agreement that indicates that that means "must be on duty". Time off normally means time away from duty, why would they even have this clause if it was obvious that they were on duty? 2)Senate is not 'regularizing' an accepted uncontroversial practice, as they claim. Students and faculty have been complaining about guns in the classrooms for a number of years. It is not clear whether this information was made available to Senators either. Complaints were discussed at the level of departments, deans and eventually Senate was asked to find a solution to the problem of students and faculty being uncomfortable around guns. Their solution is to force students and faculty to be around guns even when they have made it clear that they do not want to be. The university community deserves more than this in policy decisions about matters as important as guns in class. Do the right thing: return to the decision with the necessary information about 29.07 and a clear understanding of the history of complaints that led this problem to the Senate.

  • Steve Carr
    April 08, 2014 - 15:25

    RNC officers are required by law to carry sidearms “during their regular shift,” which means exactly the same as “while on duty”. It was very clear to Senate that officers are not allowed to go briefly “off duty” to attend a class. RNC officers who attend class are on a regular 8 or 12 hour shift and are paid as such. Businesses accommodate their employee’s class schedules, however Macdonald’s employees are not paid for time spent attending classes, nor do Jim and Tony encourage their staff to attend music lectures on Fred’s dime (I asked them). The connotation of ‘student police officer’ is someone studying to be a police officer, who is neither trained nor entitled to carry sidearms. We are discussing "police officers who are part-time students," who *are* trained and required to carry sidearms in the line of duty, that being the good to be accomodated. Assumptions about what 'everyone knows' are rarely productive. Not everyone seems to know that RNC officers carrying sidearms have attended MUN classes for years without incident or complaint, that on-duty officers routinely pass through campus for various reasons, that Brink’s guards carry guns while servicing ATMs, and that rifles and ammunition are stored at the rifle range in the HKR building. Some people insist that the accommodation creates a ‘gun culture’ at MUN: it does not. Some people think that this opens the door to gun-toting students: it does not. Some people say they would not stay in a classroom where an officer has a sidearm: apparently no students who have actually been there have done that. The Senate decision accommodates an educational matter, that a very small number of on-duty RNC officers, carrying sidearms, on occasion attend class as registered students, with the approval and encouragement of the Chief and now in conformity with the letter of MUN regulations. Welcome students.

  • AndrewCrowe
    April 08, 2014 - 12:01

    As a sociologist I am sure Professor Crocker realizes that many people hold unfounded prejudices about the police.

  • Stephen Crocker, Sociology, MUN
    April 08, 2014 - 09:51

    I beg to differ with Professor Carr. The clause clearly reads: "Police officers who are enrolled in either the Criminology Certificate Program or in the Degree of Bachelor of Arts (Police Studies) Program at Memorial University may request from the Chief of Police time off to attend classes which occur during their regular shift." It does not make any reference to "while on duty", as Professor Carr suggests. Anyone who feels unclear about this should google the RNC collective agreement and read for themselves. Of course banning weapons in class would affect the scheduling of RNC shifts, the shift of others and the public they serve. That is true in any case where an employer makes accommodations to allow employees to work their schedule around classes. Schedule changes affects other employers and the general public whether the student works at McDonalds, Fred's records or the RNC. The RNC is a complex, modern organization that deals with scheduling problems all the time. Is a minor scheduling problem sufficient reason to allow guns to be brought to class? 2)As far as I know, no one has claimed that the regulations affect cadets. This just confuses the issue. Of course, everyone knows that only trained RNC officers can be on duty and have a weapon. Police officers who attend classes are student police officers. Call them what you like, they are still students in class with a gun when there is no end for the weapon to be present. The very many people at MUN who have voiced their opposition to the Senate decision do not believe that it is a reasonable accommodation, but rather an unwelcome introduction of guns to the regular, everyday operation of university classrooms. That is something everyone should be deeply concerned about.

  • C. Brown
    April 08, 2014 - 05:53

    Strange concern about firearms being carried by police. You would think that having an armed police officer in class would make you feel safer.

  • Steve Carr
    April 07, 2014 - 21:28

    Prof Crocker is incorrect about the provision in the RNC collective agreement. The clause plainly states that the Chief may give permission for officers to attend MUN classes **while on duty**, during which time the legal requirement for the officer to be in uniform and armed is still in effect. Officers cannot simply go "off duty" for a 50 min class, rather their entire 8 or 12 hour watch would have to be rescheduled, which affects them, other officers, and the public. Senate recognized this reality in its discussion. The petition also speaks of "student police officers" rather than "police officers who are students." Cadet officers do not carry sidearms. Officers that carry sidearm are highly trained in their use and security, all of which Senate reviewed. Senates decision is a reasonable accommodation of a very small number of police officers who are also students advancing their educations with the support of the RNC and MUN. The ideal of inclusiveness extends to such students, like any others. Steve Carr, Professor of Biology, member of Academic Senate (Faculty of Science)

  • Billy
    April 07, 2014 - 13:44

    "may contribute to an escalation of gun culture on campus" Seriously!!! The lefties are afraid students will see firearms being carried peacefully with no mass shooting ever time one shows up in public. They might realize that guns are not baby killing weapons of mass destruction that they have been brainwashed by mass leftist media into thinking they are. We can't have all that propaganda get replaced with logic, reality and common sense. But, I still don't think cops should be in class when they are on the public dime.

  • Marc
    April 07, 2014 - 12:39

    Memorial University should be putting more effort into an active shooter plan than disarming the police officers already on campus. http://www.cupolice.cornell.edu/emergency/armed_subjects.cfm

  • RCMP Way
    April 07, 2014 - 11:49

    There's an easier solution here. Require RNC candidates to have a university degree. They're paid well enough for it. They benefit from it. It's what the RCMP do. Then you don't have to worry about officers going to class while on duty.

    • Huh?
      April 07, 2014 - 12:07

      The RCMP only require a high school diploma: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/recruiting-recrutement/rec/requirements-exigences-eng.htm The public benefit from having educated RNC officers. Why Crocker is trying to make it more difficult is beyond me.

  • Jeff Christie
    April 07, 2014 - 11:27

    As a researcher I am surprised by the wildly outlandish opinions and misinformation that Dr. Crocker can spew and still be taken seriously.

  • Former Students Union Leader
    April 07, 2014 - 10:47

    I don't understand how the average Newfoundland could be ok with paying for a police officer to attend class while he's on duty and then complain that there's so much crime these days. I also don't understand how they complain about seeing a cop at tims on a 20 minute coffee break "on the public dime" but don't bat an eye when they spend hours in a classroom not doing ANY work that the public is paying them to do. The whole thing is foolishness, if you're gone to work then best kind, but if you're gone to class, why should I be paying you to do your job if you can't do it because you're in class? It's stupid. Never mind what your thoughts on guns are. This is your money that is being mismanaged.

    • Reall?
      April 07, 2014 - 11:15

      Yes, we would hate to see the police educated.

  • Naive Professors at MUN
    April 07, 2014 - 09:14

    At least the RNC officer's gun is visible. There are guns and knives on campus in backpacks and coats everyday. I wonder of the Profs feel better now knowing that little fact.

  • DW
    April 07, 2014 - 09:12

    This is a serious issue for the MUN community, as it speaks not only to a safety issue, but also affects an atmosphere conducive to learning, and indicates a lack of transparency on the part of the University's Senate. In my view, these police officers are not there in a law enforcement capacity and should not be exempt from the ban on carrying weapons to class for that reason. This is supported by the RNC's own collective agreement, which indicates that officers attending class are not considered "on duty." If an officer slipped and fell in a class, there would be no question about "desirability," he or she would be told quite clearly - YOU WERE NOT ON DUTY. The idea that it would take 3 hours to attend a class is laughable. MUN is about 2kms away from HQ, and the classes are a scheduled and predictable part of their week. They can easily plan accordingly, either to leave the weapon at HQ, or turn it in at the campus security building. Regardless of my own opinion, at the very least the issue should have been raised with the broader community to seek some form of consensus on a plan, or to explain the decision. This is a terrible precedent and I hope everyone signs that petition.

  • john
    April 07, 2014 - 07:25

    Crocker is just carrying on the stereotype of lefty nutter professor.

  • Moose Drool
    April 07, 2014 - 06:59

    Bye's, seriously!!! I can't believe this is an issue that requires all of this fuss. Cops have been carrying side arms in class since I was attending MUN, and that wasn't any time recently. (I'm talking the early 80s.) Surely to goodness there are other, more pressing issues that these folks could be putting their time and energy into. I wonder how much time Professor Crocker's efforts on this foolishness is taking away from his students and the education he is supposed to be providing them. If I were a parent with a young adult in one of his classes, I'd be ticked off that he's wasting his time on this stuff.

    • @Moose Drool
      April 07, 2014 - 12:10

      RNC officers weren't allowed to carry sidearms until 1998, highly unlikely that they were taking guns to class in the 80's.

  • Glenn Stockley
    April 07, 2014 - 00:28

    Supt. Carroll appears to have forgotten all the times in years past that members of R.N.C. rowing crews took time away from their duties to train for the St. John's Regatta. This was not only unfair to the public but also to the rest of the field which was 100% amateur.