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CPs Eye Upgrade Of Outmoded Guns

By Zareena Hussain
associate news editor

In an effort to keep up with technology, Campus Police are currently exploring the possibility of upgrading their firearms from revolvers to semiautomatic weapons, said Chief Anne P. Glavin.

"It's an issue of modernization," Glavin said. "Clearly the police should have the most modern equipment." Glavin cited that most police departments use semiautomatic weapons, including other campus police departments, including those at Harvard University, Boston University, and Boston College.

Campus Police officers currently use .38 Smith and Wesson revolvers. Glavin said that this is a "pretty outmoded weapon."

Glavin would not comment on the specific brands of semiautomatic weapons the police are currently examining.

Campus Police rarely open fire

Although no statistics are kept on how often police officers draw their weapons, "it's not an unusual occurrence" over the course of 100 arrests per year that an officer would occasionally draw his weapon, Glavin said.

However, while officers may sometimes draw their weapons, no time in the past year has a Campus Police officer had to open fire, Glavin said.

There have been "two, maybe three situations" in the past 22 years at the Institute in which a police officer has had to fire a weapon, Glavin said. There have been none such instances in recent years, she added.

Decision still in early stages

The decision to buy semiautomatic weapons for all sworn police officers is still in the preliminary stage.

"We're in no rush; no timeframe has been set," Glavin said.

The Campus Police, as with any other MIT department, receives Institute funds to cover expenses. Glavin expects semiautomatic weapons to be slightly more expensive than revolvers, she said.

The decision to upgrade to semiautomatic weapons lies solely with Glavin although she does consult with Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 for budgetary considerations.

The Campus Police have been armed since 1957. The last weapons upgrade occurred sometime during the 1970s, Glavin said.

Weapons already in use elsewhere

Across the river, the Boston University campus police have been using semiautomatic weapons for over five years, said Steven M. Devlin, chief of BU's police.

The change took place sometime after the overall nationwide conversion to semiautomatic weapons in police departments across the country that took place in the late 1980s, Devlin said.

The main reason for the switch was that the semiautomatic weapon is an easier weapon with which to train officers, Devlin said.

Marksmanship among the officers improved with the switch to semiautomatic weapons. Female officers also fared better with semiautomatic weapons, Devlin said.

Another problem with the revolver was the greater maintenance it required in comparison to the semiautomatic weapon, Devlin said. The weapon that is currently used by BU police is "very maintenance-free."

Students express opinions

Students had a variety of reactions to the prospect of Campus Police officers being equipped with semiautomatic weapons.

Some felt the upgrade was justified.

"If they feel safer on duty and it helps them do their jobs, I don't see any reason why we should feel intimidated. They're there to protect us," said Sourav K. Mandal '00.

Others saw no reason for such an upgrade from revolver to semiautomatic.

"It's ridiculous. There's no need for it. It'll just instill more fear in the campus," said Somak Chattopadhyay '98.

"It will only provide a false sense of extra security," said Salman A. Khan '98.

"I want more automatic love and less automatic weapons," said Paul Fengler, a visiting student from McGill University.