Berklee College of Music Receives Backlash for Hiring Armed Officers

The school hired 12 officers and five supervisors who are trained police officers and were required to undergo additional firearm safety training.
Published: August 22, 2017

Back in June, school officials at the Berklee College of Music in Boston hired armed campus police officers. Now, two months later and just before the fall semester is set to begin, students and neighbors are voicing their concerns.

On August 15, the independent college of contemporary music held a public safety meeting to discuss grievances with residents in the Fenway neighborhood where the school is located.

The two main concerns from residents were poor outreach and lack of promotion for announcing the decision to hire armed police officers, reports The Boston Sun.

“I feel like a decision was made and whether or not we would have wanted it or not wanted it — it was going to happen,” says Letta Neely, who lives in the Fenway neighborhood.

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Markie Fukuda, an activist for the Fenway neighborhood and a member of its safety committee, says the school must improve its communication efforts.

“I am also disappointed on how this happened because a number of people have been working really hard with Berklee. The issue with the armed police force is after the fact, without a public meeting first – it did a lot. I don’t know if we can rewind from that.”

The school maintains that its only intention was to make everyone safer, according to NECN.

“If police are not armed and there’s an active shooter situation their guidelines insist they not go in,” says Berklee Associate Vice President J. Curtis Warner, Jr.

Berklee is not the first school in the Boston area to decide to hire armed officers. In 2010, Boston University pioneered the movement to hire armed officers. In 2015, Northeastern University followed suit.

Schools leaders continue to stand by their decision to hire armed officers but apologized for the lack of information provided to students and neighbors leading up to the decision.

Implementation of Armed Officers at Berklee

On June 5, the school hired 12 patrol officers and five supervisors, all of whom are trained police officers from the greater Boston area. Two armed police officers are on duty during the day and up to four are on duty at night. The original security officers who do not carry firearms are still on the campus.

Each armed officer had to undergo additional training in firearm safety. They also had to receive training in diversity and unconscious bias.

Since the hiring of the experienced officers, no gun has had to be removed from its holster.

“The firearm is used as a last resort,” says Jeremiah Collins, administrative lieutenant of police operations at Berklee. “It only comes out of the holster if my life or your life is about to get extinguished, and we need to do something.”

Collins believes just the simple presence of an armed officer will deter unwanted activity in the area.

Supporters of Arming Berklee Officers

Not all who attended the meeting were opposed to the decision.

Peggy Codding, a professor of music at Berklee for 18 years, wishes the decision to hire armed officers came sooner.

In 2012, Codding says she was mugged in her car on Hemenway Street, the same street where the August 15 meeting was held. She says security officers couldn’t do anything to help her. Several years later, she filed a restraining order against a stalker on campus. Codding had to go to the Boston Police for help.

Codding also says after one of her students hadn’t been seen for a while, she called the Boston Police to conduct a well-being check. Although she did not go into detail, she says if she hadn’t made that call, the student may not be alive today.

All of these incidents, says Codding, could have been handled sooner and more effectively if an armed Berklee police officer had been readily accessible.

“I would prefer not to have guns if we lived in the best of worlds, but since we don’t I would prefer to be protected. Folks, it’s just not the same world when we went to college.”

 

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