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FRESHFARM workers ratify union agreement
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 15, 2024

GWPD arming decision lacks community voice, staff councilmembers say

Staff councilmembers expressed concern about arming GW Police Department officers at their second meeting Friday.
Ianne Salvosa
Staff Council members convened via Zoom Friday to discuss the level of community engagement involved in the University’s decision to arm GW Police Department officers.

Staff councilmembers inquired about the lack of constituency involvement in the decision to arm GW Police Department at a Staff Council meeting Friday.

GWPD Chief James Tate, who delivered a presentation on the GWPD arming implementation plan at the meeting, said he will conduct several community engagement forums to make changes to the plan and is currently in the process of arming four lieutenants as phase two of the plan. Tate said armed GWPD supervisors receive de-escalation training once per month focused on lowering the “stress level” of disturbances before addressing the disturbance with force.

Tate also delivered the presentation at a Faculty Senate meeting this month and said officials received faculty feedback on phase one of the arming to clarify the department’s use of force policy, which outlines police conduct expectations in de-escalation efforts and evidence bias training. He also delivered the presentation to the Student Association earlier this month, where he announced that arming GWPD officers will cost about $150,000.

Tate said all officers are armed with “less lethal weapons” like pepper spray and batons. He said GWPD officers cannot respond to active shooter situations if they are unarmed.

“When the gunfire is happening, we should be responding to that with an effort to save lives, and so being unarmed we can’t respond to that,” Tate said at the meeting.

Tate added that GWPD stationed a patrol car outside Ross Hall in response to community concerns about safety in the area.

“It is something that is top of mind, and it’s something that we have to stay on top of,” Tate said at the meeting.

Michael Kern, a representative of GW Information Technology, said he appreciates the training GWPD officers receive but has noticed “a lot” of turnover in the department. He said the department could lose “familiarity” with the GW community if it does not improve their staff retention.

“Training oftentimes is no match for experience,” Kern said.

Staff Council President Bridget Schwartz introduced SA President Arielle Geismar at the meeting. Geismar said the SA added a gynecologist to the Student Health Center and is working on an app to centralize resources for students like information on student organizations and mental health resources.

“If there are opportunities that you all would like to work together, things that you’re working on that you think that we should be plugging into. I definitely love that,” Geismar said.

Councilmembers unanimously approved Jonathan Ragone, the executive director of student services, advising and records for the Office of Undergraduate Studies, as the new School of Engineering and Applied Sciences representative at the meeting.

Schwartz said University President Ellen Granberg invited her to be the Staff Council’s representative on the University Leadership Council. She added that she is working with Human Resources to have department leaders attend future Staff Council meetings.

Schwartz said that some council members will be serving on Faculty Senate standing committees: Sharon Testor, the enrollment and student success representative, will be on the Physical Facilities Committee; Parliamentarian Mindy Galván will be on the Appointment, Salary and Promotion Policies Committee; Heather Richards, a School of Medicine and Health Sciences representative, will be on the University and Urban Affairs Committee; and Tricia Greenstein, the Libraries and Academic Innovation and GW Museums representative, will be on the Libraries Committee.

Alex Washington, the chair of the council’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, said 53 staff members are interested in serving on the committee. She said Schwartz had charged the committee with creating employee resource groups that advocate for policies and will look at other institutions’ staff councils, like George Mason University, to see how they model their employee resource groups.

“We’ve had several different items come in from folks as far as what they’re interested in and focusing on and so we just kind of want to make sure that we are sticking with what is JEDI versus what is perhaps staff experience,” Washington said.

Rachel Moon contributed reporting.

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About the Contributor
Ianne Salvosa, News Editor
Ianne Salvosa is a junior majoring in journalism and international affairs from Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 news editor for the Administration and Finance beat. She previously served as an assistant news editor for the Administration and Finance beat and a contributing news editor for the Academics and Administration beats for Vol. 119.
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