Let the UMPD Keep Their Guns

Earlier this month, the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) held their annual elections. Voting is done online, and the election allows University of Minnesota students to both vote for MSA representatives and to vote on specific issues that various student organizations have posed.

Like the administration at the U of M, the MSA is known for being left-leaning. One of MSA’s most recent and controversial projects has been the proposed re-naming of several university buildings, particularly Coffman Memorial Union. Lotus D. Coffman, the former University president for whom the student union is named, advocated for the segregation of student housing based on ideals of racism and antisemitism. Even though Coffman served as president from 1920 to 1938, and most students don’t even know who he was or what he did, MSA has pushed hard to rename the union and erase the University’s darker past.

In order to further promote their vision of inclusivity, MSA included the following question – sponsored by Students for a Democratic Society – on the recent election ballot: “In order to foster a more welcoming and inclusive climate on campus, should the University of Minnesota Police Department remove weapons of lethal force from the daily uniforms of their officers?”

The fact that this question is even up for consideration is ridiculous. The purpose of a police force is to maintain order and protect innocent citizens from dangerous ones – not to foster a “welcoming and inclusive” environment. And yes, that sometimes requires the use of force. University administration and staff are responsible for making students feel welcome, not the police.

Even though some students might not agree with the University’s initiative to promote inclusivity by renaming buildings, I’m guessing most students would concede that promoting inclusivity is at least within the realm of an administration’s obligations. But since when is it the UMPD’s moral duty to promote inclusivity? When I hear the word “police,” I think of safety and justice, not the “big happy family” sunshine-and-rainbows ideal that MSA is promoting.

Sadly, it’s not surprising that Democrats have become enamored with the idea of eliminating guns and other “weapons of lethal force” from police uniforms. The United Kingdom, the United States’ liberal cousin, is well-known for having eliminated guns from its police force. According to a 2017 NBC news report, over 90 percent of London’s police officers don’t carry a gun while completing their daily duties.

But I don’t want our urban university to follow in the UK’s footsteps, and I can’t be the only student who feels that way. The UMPD constantly pops up in my inbox with “public safety update” emails detailing disturbing events that have occurred on campus. When there are crimes being committed just a few blocks from where I live and walk to classes, I don’t want the officers responsible for me and my peers’ safety to be unarmed.

Until we achieve world peace – a laughably unrealistic aspiration – there are going to be bad people doing bad things. It’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. Many of those criminals will have guns or lethal weapons of their own. The solution is not to take away police officers’ weapons; that’s not going to eliminate any problems. For all this talk of fostering a “welcoming and inclusive” campus climate, the irony is that I would feel less welcome on campus where the police were restricted in their ability to do their job and protect me.