The following is a report prepared in July, 1996, and sent to the Steering Committee of University Council, summarizing discussions of the 1995-96 Committee on Safety and Security (see the Committe's year-end report, Almanac September 24). The summary was reviewed at the first fall meeting of the 1996-97 Committee.
At the request of the President of the University, the Safety and Security Committee looked at the proposal to replace University Police Officers' revolvers with semi-automatic pistols.
As Chair of the Committee, I personally contacted numerous sources, including senior faculty in Arts and Sciences, the Medical School, the Law School, the Division of Public Safety, and University Administration. I also sought input from sources at three outside universities, as well as the Philadelphia Office of the FBI, and the Superintendent of the Lower Merion Police Department.
All those who spoke out on the issue at the November Council Open Forum were invited to attend meetings of our Committee. In addition, the Committee on Pluralism and the Community Relations Committee were invited to take part in our discussions. Input was received from members of the Community Relations Department; African-American Association of Faculty, Staff, and Administrators; and Penn Faculty and Staff for Neighborhood Issues (PFSNI).
Two meetings were devoted almost exclusively to this topic. Invited guests included the FBI Principal Firearms Instructor, and an internationally known consultant on police issues.
Among those who did not support the change to semi-automatic pistols, the following issues were raised:
In the course of our discussion, it became clear that semi-automatic pistols were often confused with automatic weapons, including machine guns and machine pistols. The Committee learned that:
Mr. Thomas Seamon, Managing Director of Public Safety, reported that:
I did not ask the Committee to vote on this issue. I felt the role of the Committee was to identify the relevant issues and gather the facts needed to help the University come to a reasoned conclusion. There was no consensus, and little likelihood that one would be reached. For some, the issue was an emotional one. In many cases, it could not be separated from larger issues, such as the University's relationship to the West Philadelphia community, and race relations in general. Whatever decision is reached, some thoughtful, responsible, important members of the community may well be upset, angered, or offended. I hope the work of the Committee on Safety and Security will help the University make the appropriate decision in the best interest of the University community in its broadest sense.
-- Prepared by Sean Kennedy, 1995-96 Co-Chair and 1996-97 Chair, Committee on Safety and Security
Volume 43 Number 11
November 5, 1996
Return to Almanac's homepage.
Return to index for this issue.