George Washington University arms officers after other safety measures fail

There were 485 safety-related incidents on campus at GW in 2019.

The campus group ‘Students Against Imperialism’ demands the reversal of arming the GWPD, calling the officers “incompetent.”

After several implemented safety measures failed, George Washington University (GW) announced Aug. 21 that two campus police officers will be armed beginning in the fall semester, with more guards to be armed later.

Chief James Tate and Captain Gabe Mullinax are the first two officers to be armed in the rollout of the program, GW announced in August. In an April interview with GW student newspaper, The Hatchet, GW President Mark Wrighton stated that 20 officers of the 50 in the force will ultimately carry handguns for campus safety.

Wrighton initially announced the arming GWPD supervisory officers in April, which Campus Reform reported.

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GW has already implemented measures like electronic access and emergency response systems in buildings, upgraded security cameras, and active shooter protocols, Wrighton said in April. But GW needs armed guards due to “rising gun violence nationally and the need for GWPD supervisory officers to respond to life-threatening emergencies,” the August announcement states.

There were 485 safety-related incidents on campus at GW in 2019, measuring roughly 17.44 incidents per 1000 students, according to College Factual. This is 15.57 incidents higher than the national average, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. There have been more than 260 school-related shootings across the country in 2023, according to Gun Violence Archive

GW’s ‘Students Against Imperialism’ responded to the April announcement on Instagram, calling the campus police “incapable and incompetent,” and that GW did not factor in students’ input.

A GW student called the group’s position “idiotic,” and said that the rising crime in Washington, D.C., has made her feel unsafe on campus, even explaining that she carries pepper spray in the event she needs to defend herself. 

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The GW community considered hundreds of points of feedback after the April announcement of its plan to arm supervisory police officers. In response to community feedback, the GWPD has revealed a five-part outline to their implementation policy which includes guidelines like: implicit bias training, an implementation of a Use of Force Policy, and creation of an Independent Review Committee.

GW’s Training Requirements PDF

Though the report outlines structures and procedures for arming, the end goal of arming officers and growing upon the initial two armed officers has remained unchanged. 

Campus Reform contacted GWPD, GWU Office of President, and Students Against Imperialism for comment. The article will be updated accordingly.