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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Give the police a chance

Published: November 9, 2007
Section: Opinions

An issue that has been devouring seemingly all of our campus discussions lately is that of arming the Brandeis police force. Sure, youre probably thinking, why do I want to hear another rant about how much some student hates/loves the idea? But this is neither of the above. And I feel personally compelled to educate the Brandeis community on this issue, as I know the Brandeis police better than many other students.

And no, its not because Im some kind of deviant. I believe that the Brandeis community deserves to know the real story, not just what people believe is true, or something theyve heard from other people.

You could say that I grew up Brandeis in a way. As daughter of director of public safety Ed Callahan, Ive had the inside opportunity to grow up knowing the very police officers who are presently being criticized for, among many things, harassing activity, incompetence in being able to carry guns, and possibly misusing these weapons.

First, Id like to clarify something- the Brandeis police do not even have guns yet, so dont lock yourself in your resident halls just yet. It seems like our present predicament is not whether or not the Brandeis police are armed, but the fact that an increasing number of people choose to be uninformed and ignorant regarding this issue, proceeding to put on an all-knowing faade of knowledge, and shoot the messenger (no pun intended.)

So in this article, I would like to paint you a picture of the real Brandeis public safety department. These are family-oriented, hardworking men and women that we should be proud to call our police officers. These are the officers who wave to me and kindly offer me a ride around campus when Im tired after Pilates class or carrying a ton of bags. These are the officers who spend countless hours working hard to protect this community, working graveyard shifts and taking late night emergency calls.

Sure, any time were near someone, police officer or not, who carries a gun, we instinctively get a little defensive. Thats just human nature, after all. But the sad reality is that without guns, how will the police protect us, God forbid, they ever need to? It seems like reconciliation between the two dominant standpoints on campus regarding this issue lies far in the future.

Ive walked through the halls of public safety more times than I can count, and I can assure you that it is not a stiff, scary environment as some may believe. Yes, these are hard-working, serious people, but they are human beings as well. There is camaraderie and fun also. These are not the kind of people who would just randomly shoot you unprovoked like some people fear.

On a completely practical level, why would anyone risk his or her job by shooting an innocent, non-aggressive student? Like I said, these are family people who have loved ones to think about.

Growing up with the Brandeis police has taught me not to be afraid, but to admire their dedication and the only beef I have with them is the occasional call to my house at 2 am, waking me up to talk to my father, but thats between us.

Why is Brandeis any different than any other police department? Would any city police department be criticized for having guns? Like any other police force, the Brandeis cops will go through both gun and psychological training to ensure that they are fit to carry guns.

So before the next person decides to launch an unfounded attack on my father or public safety, take it from someone who has grown up Brandeis when I say theres a lot more than you think you may know.

Yet another current issue seems to be that some students feel they have no say in the matter and feel their voices are not being heard, thereby leading to the newly-formed

Firearms Committee. I personally know my father has met with several concerned students to try to foster an honest discussion about the problem.

Lets be realistic about this, though. Sure, its important that students have a voice, but honestly, do we really think that the members of the Public Safety department are too incompetent to do their jobs? Ed Callahan, who has been an employee for 29 years, works with a staff of officers who average 13 years of service. There are Public Safety employees who have worked here for as many as 37 years. Sure, I know people will say that Im biased because Im his daughter. But daughter or not, it doesnt take a genius to see that this man and his staff are some of the most hard-working individuals employed by this university.

Members of the public safety department are all dedicated, competent, and extremely approachable. They are all open to any concerns people may have regarding the decision to arm, a decision I might add that was not their own, so stop blaming them.

I can honestly vouch for these officers when I say that I dont believe that any of them would ever harass or harm any student. Of course, I wasnt there when anything that might have occurred did, so I can only speak from my own experience. But I think that we need to step back from the situation and take a breather.

Fighting and accusing each other of things will accomplish nothing. The reality is,

Brandeis police officers will be armed. Regardless of whether any of us approve of this,

Its done. The task that lies ahead is fostering an open, honest discussion among one another over how to best deal with the situation.

I urge you to strike up a conversation with one of these officers and see for yourself if

I havent convinced you yet. I stand by my father and the public safety department and believe that we all need to recognize them for all the good theyve done for us, rather than the bad so many believe will come. In this Salem witch-hunt environment, the true story is often lost among all of the hysteria. So try to filter out all of the rumors and realize that these are real people. Distrusting the officers and my fathers competence is an insult to them all and needs to be addressed. So next time you pass an officer and look away in fear, whispering to your friends how scary they are, try instead to maybe thank them or simply smile. I can promise you theyll reciprocate. And if not, well, Ill just have a little talk with them.

And please stop harassing my father- thats my job!