Updated: President of MUN’s grad students says RNC officers in class shouldn’t be allowed to carry firearms

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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The president of Memorial University’s Graduate Students’ Union says the school’s recent decision to allow RNC officers taking classes to carry firearms will escalate violence and normalizes excessive police force.

Joey Donnelly told The Telegram today he decided to speak out against the regulation change — which was passed by MUN’s senate in November — after an RNC officer’s weapon was fired weapon during an attempted arrest on Tuesday. Police were trying to catch a man they say was breaking into cars. The RNC says the suspect fled in a stolen SUV, which is when an officer fired a single shot.

Justin Michael Chipman, 26, of St. John’s was arrested the next day and is facing several charges, including assault with a weapon and assaulting a police officer. The RNC have asked the RCMP to conduct an independent investigation into the firearm discharge.

Donnelly was one of four university senators who voted against the rule change that allows uniformed officers attending classes while on active duty to carry firearms with written permission from the manager of Campus Enforcement and Patrol. There were four abstentions, and 39 votes in favour of allowing the change

“In a learning environment, guns certainly don’t belong, and in the classroom, certainly not,” he said. “It makes students uncomfortable just knowing that there is a weapon on campus.”

Donnelly acknowledged that Tuesday’s shooting is different from uniformed officers carrying guns in class, but says he has concerns about that incident as well and fears it’s indicative of a normalization of excessive police force.

“A lot of these officers were in plain clothes,” he said. “I feel like when you’re having a sting operation for, essentially, a car thief, and a firearm is actually used by an officer at campus, I think that just raises a lot of questions about the excessive use of force by police officers and what kind of environment we’re creating that actually allows for that to happen.”

Bert Riggs, chairman of the senate committee on undergraduate studies, said the rule change came about because Memorial University has had a police studies program for nearly a decade.

“They attend class according to the schedule that classes are set; however, they also have to be on duty for some of those classes, and are given a short period of time — usually an hour or two hours, whatever it is — to attend those classes,” he said, adding that it’s usually around three or four classes per semester when an officer might be on duty in class. “Because they are on duty, they are required to carry their firearms with them.” Officers not on duty during class don’t wear their uniforms, he said.

Memorial’s Campus Enforcement and Patrol received a request from the RNC to change the regulations to allow officers to carry their guns while attending classes, but only while the officers are on duty. The undergraduate studies committee considered the request, including consideration of how other campuses handle such regulations, before drafting a resolution to make the change, which was then forwarded to the senate for debate and voting. Besides approving the rule change, the senate also recommended developing a formal weapons policy.

The MUN senate meeting in November that voted in the regulation change included an appearance by Sgt. Bill James of the RNC, who gave a presentation on firearm safety and answered questions. James said officers are required to wear uniforms while on duty, and firearms are a mandatory part of the uniform.

“[James] went over the safety precautions that are taken, how there’s a three-step process for an officer to get the gun out of his holster,” said Riggs. “He answered a battery of questions from the senators who were there, and they were not gentle questions, by any means.”

Riggs said the university is satisfied the regulation change won’t, as Donnelly suggests, make students less safe, because police already have the right to be armed on campus.

“The police have the right to enter campus or any other place in this city, in this province, when they’re carrying out their duty,” he said. “To me, what happened here on campus earlier this week was the RNC, in the course of carrying out their reponsibilities to protect the public.”

Riggs noted the university has a cashier’s office that accepts cash that’s routinely picked up by an armed Brinks guard. “He is performing his duty,” he said. “We would not be able to get one of those companies to come here and take our money without agreeing to allow it. There are exceptions to every regulation for practical purposes.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

•••

(Earlier story)

The president of Memorial University’s Graduate Students’ Union says the school’s recent decision to allow RNC officers taking classes to carry firearms will escalate violence and normalizes the excessive use of police force.

Joey Donnelly told The Telegram today he decided to speak out against the regulation change — which was passed by MUN’s senate in November — after an RNC officer’s weapon was fired weapon during an attempted arrest on Tuesday. Police were trying to catch a man they say was breaking into cars. The RNC says the suspect fled in a stolen SUV, which is when an officer fired a single shot.

Justin Michael Chipman, 26, of St. John’s was arrested the next day and is facing several charges, including assault with a weapon and assaulting a police officer. The RNC have asked the RCMP to conduct an independent investigation into the firearm discharge.

Donnelly was one of four university senators who voted against the rule change that allows uniformed officers attending classes while on active duty to carry firearms with written permission from the manager of Campus Enforcement and Patrol.

“In a learning environment, guns certainly don’t belong, and in the classroom, certainly not,” he said. “It makes students uncomfortable just knowing that there is a weapon on campus.”

Donnelly acknowledged that Tuesday’s shooting is different from uniformed officers carrying guns in class, but says he has concerns about that incident  as well and fears it’s indicative of a normalization of excessive police force.

“A lot of these officers were in plain clothes,” he said. “I feel like when you’re having a sting operation for, essentially, a car thief, and a firearm is actually used by an officer at campus, I think that just raises a lot of questions about the excessive use of force by police officers and what kind of environment we’re creating that actually allows for that to happen.”

The MUN senate meeting in November that voted in the regulation change included an appearance by Sgt. Bill James of the RNC, who gave a presentation on firearm safety and answered questions. James said officers are required to wear uniforms while on duty, and firearms are a mandatory part of the uniform.

Officers have been attending classes at Memorial University for the past nine years, and “it is encouraged that they upgrade for promotions,” according to the minutes of the meeting.

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel

Organizations: RCMP

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Recent comments

  • michael shaffer
    March 29, 2014 - 09:17

    Exactly! If these students are to put out (lazy?) to dress appropriately for the classroom, then I worry that they'd also be too put out (lazy) to carry a firearm responsibly. We should be minimizing guns in our culture, not be finding reasons for including them!!

  • Ricardo Huerta
    March 28, 2014 - 11:28

    These officers should be either "on duty" or "in class", not both at the same time. If their employer wants them to take courses, they should give them time off duty to do so. If the officers want to take the courses, they should do it wheh they are off duty.

  • nowayfolks
    February 23, 2014 - 13:04

    Good or evil. What kind of person uses a gun or weapon to harm another person? A violent aggressive one. People who carry items on themselves for defensive reasons who have no intention of attacking someone otherwise are not a threat to anyone, they are reactionary. Be them cops, $$ guards, or regular trained citizens (all people) it is a person's soul, their intent, that is dangerous.

  • Don II
    February 23, 2014 - 12:23

    What nonsense! The society and the criminal culture is quickly changing in the oil rich environment of Newfoundland and Labrador. Soon, there will be a serious illegal drug and criminal gun culture operating in the Province. Are we proposing to have the cops check their guns at the University front desk or go back to having them unarmed as in the past? Many of the people who have been shot dead in College and University campus shooting rampages in the US over the years would probably be alive today if there had been armed police officers on the campus grounds when the rampages began whether the cops were there doing investigations or just there taking a class!

  • Max P.
    February 22, 2014 - 23:43

    Is the work and responsibilities of an on-duty cop (public employee) compromised when weekly classes overlap with work shifts? What other obligations do on-duty student police have that could prevent an effective response to emergencies if their services are required? Why haven’t these police always been allowed to have guns? Could these guns end up in the wrong hands if a police cadet found themselves preoccupied with a particularly interesting lecture? Is the risk for potential fire arm negligence heighted for student police officers, compared to regular on-duty police officers, when multitasking disjunctive obligations like being on-duty to serve society while doing something like being in the middle of a midterm that has been particularly stressful? And does this practise undermine academic discourse if ones curiosity and train of thought becomes supressed at the worry of being potentially unlawful or confrontational?

  • Gerry
    February 22, 2014 - 16:13

    'It makes students uncomfortable just knowing that there is a weapon on campus.'...everyone is entitled to their opinion, so here's mine: what.aload.of.crap.....you do realize these are national police officers right/ Their profession is protection of the public, ergo they are trained in the use of firearms. And I shake my head when one speaks on behalf of all students: having & had family members /friends getting/received degrees over the last 3 decades; having been friends with many MUN alumni, I'll bet that not ALL MUN students are naive,ignorant, blind anti-gun nuts. How ignorant and arrogant such narrow-minded comments make one sound. If such comments are the indication of our country's future, then we are royally screwed....Perhaps less keggers & more research are in order before one opens mouth & inserts both feet....

    • Randy
      February 22, 2014 - 18:43

      If they are so anxious to further their education (something most of them sure do need) then let them do what everyone else does,,,,,go to school on their own time, and let them PAY for it, like the rest of us have to. Damn buffoons!

    • Mun student
      February 24, 2014 - 09:27

      this is a very ignorant comment. The author of these comments is a hard-working and dedicated individual who speaks on behalf of his students based on his discussions with them. Your assertion that the author spends more time at keggers than doing research are both unfounded and incorrect. I don't like guns on campus, and I'm glad the GSU is speaking out against it. NO GUNS ON CAMPUS. Especially not after last weeks events.

  • Pointing dog
    February 22, 2014 - 14:10

    This article is dribble, you trust a police officer for 12 hours a day off campus but not on campus , the left is becoming crazier by the day

  • Richard
    February 22, 2014 - 11:40

    A very unprofessional, biased article. I would like to know more about the actual incident, but that obviously doesn't fit the writers Anti-gun agenda.

  • Marshall Art
    February 22, 2014 - 08:05

    'Just knowing there's a weapon on campus makes students uncomfortable'. Huh ?? In Canada and the U.S., innocent people have been shot to death in classrooms by nutjobs and , at MUN, we've got students who feel 'uncomfortable' with a police officer in their class wearing a gun ?. Go figure.

  • Aub
    February 21, 2014 - 21:50

    Pres. Obama, while the Media was preoccupied with the Congressional shutdown last November, reinstated the Clintonian "Cops in Schools Program". If even the great "O" can see how this enhances the safety of students and faculty, who are we to argue. We have something called Terrorism now, you know.

    • Obama is a fraud
      February 24, 2014 - 09:53

      This is the same president that tried to enforce stricter gun control after the alleged shooting at sandy hook school. The real terrorists are elected officials and bankers. Wake up.

    • Pay my way too!
      February 24, 2014 - 10:00

      If RNC officers are allowed to attend class on duty while getting paid for it then why isn't the government paying for anyone else's education? Studies have shown that every dollar invested into CNA returns an 1150 percent profit. Fund the future. End the loans, and start the grants.

  • Gordon Thompson
    February 21, 2014 - 20:50

    I live in the US six months a year and am very active in most of the shooting disciplines. I'm a licensed Canadian gun owners and bring my firearms south every year to participate in competitions of all sorts. Consequently I'm more than slightly interested in gun politics. I don't favour the current situation in the US but significant change is unlikely. Of the laws and regulations that the US does have , the most ludicrous of them all is the maintenance of gun free zones. This idiocy is an open invitation to criminals and misfits to perpetrate the worst of firearm atrocities. Any one with a will can check the location of most of the mass killings and find out that College campuses lead the list. For those that might like to do a little research and use their heads they will find that Canadian gun laws are a horror show that do little to nothing to combat criminality and everything to hound, discriminate and victimize the legal gun owners who are likely some of the most disciplined and law abiding people there are. People who are getting higher education might try using it to learn the facts rather than the knee jerk foolishness that they promote.

  • Augustalina
    February 21, 2014 - 20:24

    OK OK-let's make it fair: All MUN students should be issued their own firearm to balance things off.

  • Robert
    February 21, 2014 - 20:02

    What bull.. When it comes to the shoot. The suspect is a criminal! Who cares bout him. Second a cadot with side are soon to be police officer, to protect and serve the public, school and student, staff. Yes. They should be have side arms. Used to responsibility. Going to have one while in career? Time to get used to the times. Same as when people did not want RNC to be armed in first place. They need the side arms.. SO GET OVER IT!!!

  • NL, not NYC
    February 21, 2014 - 18:06

    100% agree with Joey. Cops have been taking classes for a decade, and NOW they suddenly need to bring their guns with them? That's completely dumb. Sounds like laziness or cost-cutting on the part of the RNC. If they're on-duty, they shouldn't be in the classroom. Sounds like cops just wanting to throw their weight around and feel self-important. It's scandalous the university gave in to this nonsense. Maybe we ought to get rid of the police studies program if this is what it leads to.

  • Glenn Stockley
    February 21, 2014 - 17:07

    Joe is 100 % correct. No way theses guys should be wearing guns as students. If they do not have the initiative to do the classes after work on their own time as others do then they should stay home.... The fact that police officers don't even require at least an undergraduate degree in 2014 is ridiculous. No wonder NL's justice?system? is so questionable.

  • ssssss
    February 21, 2014 - 17:04

    I think that Campus Enforcement Officers should carry side arms and be trained as police officers. Shootings at schools do occur as we all know and can happen right here. It would be nice to know that there are officers throughout Campus who could put a stop to a potential threat. Since they are not, I think that a police officer armed and on campus is a welcomed site. I bet Joey wouldn't have an issue if that police officer in class saved his life with that side arm someday.

  • JGreen
    February 21, 2014 - 16:54

    Maybe Mr. Donnelly should ask the students of other Canadian Universities if they would have liked to have armed police officers on campus: Concordia (4 dead, 1 injured), Dawson (2 dead, 19 injured), École Polytechnique (15 dead, 14 injured).

  • Duffy
    February 21, 2014 - 16:51

    The well rounded "great thinker" who has been a student all his life with no real life experience should continue to read his liberal books about how things should be not what they are.......... Next time he needs help call some derelick on the street instead of the cops and his attitude would changed.

  • Markus
    February 21, 2014 - 16:48

    I thought a RNC officer was not allowed to bring there gun anywhere unless they were on duty. That said, if they are taking classes while one duty, then they need it as part of their uniform. I don't see it as an issue. Same as if they are called to do a patrol on campus, do they leave their guns at the station and then respond?? This is 2014 everyone. If you knew what happened after dark in the city you probably wouldn't sleep very well.

  • feller
    February 21, 2014 - 16:31

    Be careful what you wish for. That armed police officer could save a lot of lives should an armed intruder enter campus. Campus enforcement officers are not armed but should be and trained as police officers. Prevention is key. Not wait til something happens and then say only if campus enforcement were armed they may have been able to prevent it. I bet joey wouldn't have an issue with the sidearm if his life were to be saved by it.

  • Tony
    February 21, 2014 - 15:43

    To think that armed officers could possibly "as Donnelly suggests, make students less safe", is ridiculous! If there was an incident where police were required I'm sure the people calling them would certainly be feeling more safe when these same armed officers showed up to help. There's also another logical way to look at it, if someone wanted to go on a rampage/shooting spree/crime wave, etc do you really think they'd be inclined to do so where they know there are already armed officers present? The mere presence of firearms is usually all the deterrent most criminals need.

  • James J.
    February 21, 2014 - 15:33

    Can anyone imagine the students' union of the 1960s accepting a university decision to allow cops to wear guns while sitting in a class room? But then of course the police weren't allowed to carry guns in those days. What we're witnessing is the Americanization of Canada - the slow acceptance of guns as a way of life, for gangsters and the police. Psychologists had argued for many years that arming police merely ratchets up the stakes as the criminal element decide to do likewise. To this day, Bobbies on the beat in England do not carry side-arms. Indeed, polls show that more than 80% of police in that country don't want guns on the beat. And England has one of the lowest rates of gun use among criminals the world over. As a MUN student I definitely don't want to be sitting a few feet from a loaded gun. Totally unnecessary. Lock them in your trunk before entering the building.

  • penny
    February 21, 2014 - 14:36

    well what from ive read and seen coming from the USA with regards to guns .....it would seem to be that would be paramount to cause an incident where by a student not of sound mind decided hey theres a cop in my class im gonna show him how BIG my gun is and end shooting the whole class and perhaps causing many deaths .....theres too many situations that could have might have ...gonna happen

  • penny
    February 21, 2014 - 14:35

    well what from ive read and seen coming from the USA with regards to guns .....it would seem to be that would be paramount to cause an incident where by a student not of sound mind decided hey theres a cop in my class im gonna show him how BIG my gun is and end shooting the whole class and perhaps causing many deaths .....theres too many situations that could have might have ...gonna happen

  • Thomas
    February 21, 2014 - 13:42

    With all the thugs running around the north east Avalon I should have the right to carry a weapon to protect my property and well being. Sorry folks, the days of unicorns, butterflies, rainbows and love ins in Bannerman Park are gone.

    • yo mama
      February 22, 2014 - 15:31

      Thank the justice system.

  • MUN student
    February 21, 2014 - 13:06

    Mr. Donnolly is absolutely correct. RNC should not be on campus conducting operations. There is a campus security force to look after security. RNC may be asked, in particular circumstances, to come on campus if the need arises. Furthermore, RNC taking courses at MUN should not be in uniform and should not be armed, nor should cadets taking courses be in cadet uniforms. The visible presence of uniformed RNC is antithetical to the spirit of the academy, which is supposed to foster a space in which free expression and contentious politics is possible. It's a question of not just security but academic freedom. These discussions happened in the past, and academics at MUN ought to be speaking up about this, but aren't for a number of reasons.

    • Wild Rose
      February 21, 2014 - 13:39

      Cause those eggheads don't live in the real world they live on our taxes! Bunch of bleeding hearts. Wait till someone comes in there class with a machine gun. Then they will know about the real world.

    • seanoairborne
      February 21, 2014 - 16:50

      Please cite,if you would, where your scenario has occurred in the USA?Put up or shut up!

    • My2cents
      February 21, 2014 - 19:22

      Dear Mun student. If a crime is occurring in your area, isn.t that where you would like the police to be. What would other students say if their cars were being targeted often and the police did nothing?????

    • DW
      February 21, 2014 - 22:19

      You're confusing security with policing. The RNC does not need permission to enter MUN campus, just like they don't need permission to enter the mall parking lot. In some countries police are considered a political faction, and are prohibited from entering university grounds, but Canada is not one of those countries. I think most Canadians would agree that an officer wearing his uniform to class would not dissuade academic or political expression in any meaningful way. That said, I would not want an armed police officer in my classroom, and I'd prefer they lock their weapons away in the security office if unable to leave them at hq.

  • Reaching?
    February 21, 2014 - 12:44

    Wow... not one comment in support of Joe Donelly so far! Usually, you would see someone supporting. Anyway, here are the two big flaws with his argument: 1. He speaks of excessive use of force, when the whole details of the incident have not really come -to -light. What we do know about the incident, it appears like it may have been self-defence while police officers were being assaulted with a vehicle. 2. The shooting incident has absolutely no bearing on the issue of police taking courses at MUN. They were doing a police operation, completely seperate from the issue addressed at the senate meeting in November. I'm sorry, Joe, but I think you are reaching too far here. Anyone here agree?

    • Tony
      February 21, 2014 - 15:47

      Completely.

  • John Morrisey
    February 21, 2014 - 12:27

    Mr. Donnelly’s naiveté is surprising for someone who is supposed to be a graduate student. Having uniformed police officers on campus is a good thing as their presence might discourage one of the nutso-shooters we’ve seen in other places. Remember a couple of years ago when a foreign student started stabbing another student? Having a police officer walking by on his/her way to class is not a bad thing. I think it’s great that the RNC encourages its employees to further their education at MUN and allows them do to it while they’re on duty. The officers being in uniform, is to me, a bonus. It’s also a counter point to the immature thinking that talks about “normalization of excessive police force”. There are bad people out there Joey.

  • B
    February 21, 2014 - 12:22

    Joey, go back and eat your granola. You're not with reality.

  • Wild Rose
    February 21, 2014 - 12:11

    What a load. All law-abiding taxpayers shold be armed to protect our private property! and we need a stand you're ground law to!

    • Brad
      February 21, 2014 - 14:18

      If you want these laws, move to America. Canadians are not interested in either.

    • Tony
      February 21, 2014 - 15:49

      You're right Wild Rose and Brad, you're out to lunch. We Canadians have the same right to bear arms as the U.S., the liberal government under Chretien started the brainwashing to make people believe we don't. I applaud the U.S. citizens for having the balls to fight for their rights and not take it lying down like we did up here.

  • Mack Hall
    February 21, 2014 - 11:05

    Mr. Donnelly wants to be protected from evil, but he wants to dictate how his protectors arm, dress, and comport themselves while he cowers behind them. Unless Mr. Donnelly, armed only with his own pomposity, intends to charge an armed intruder, he is inadequate.

  • Tom
    February 21, 2014 - 10:59

    What a crock. They are talking about a cadet who is on active duty, not a cadet that is just starting training. And the criminals are the ones causing all the violence, not the cops. As for using a gun on an undercover operation, yes. Why not. Who knows what the criminal has with them as a weapon, not to mention the stolen car that was being used as a weapon trying to hit the cop. Damn good reason to fire on him. Too bad they missed. Too bad more aren't taken out. Now it's just a story for the tool to brag to his friends about. Shoot straight next time. Maybe you will "get your man".

  • PHMC
    February 21, 2014 - 10:51

    Excessive use of force??????????? towards a car thief. A car thief who used a car to attempt to ram into RNC officer is an excessive use of force.