Student petition at Evergreen seeks to boost firepower of campus police

Students walking to classes to The Evergreen State College campus in Olympia.

OLYMPIA -- On campus, police often blend into the background, like the trees that pepper the grounds of The Evergreen State College in Olympia.

But a group of students are concerned that campus police are not prepared to take the front line if an active shooter comes on site.

Omar, a student with Police Awareness and Student Safety, or PASS, asked, “ Would they respond with the proper tools and would they respond with the proper training? The answer is no.”

Omar’s group has begun circulating a petition for other students to sign that asks the school to provide police with high-powered rifles, shields and other equipment that the PASS group says would help stop a gunman, should one ever open fire on campus, and possibly reduce the number of casualties.

Robb Anthony, another student in PASS, said, “Frankly, not having the tools, the rifles, the training, and the staff to do the job jeopardizes the lives of all students here who are simply trying to get an education.”

Police at all other four-year public colleges in the state currently have that type of equipment.

Police at Evergreen asked for the rifles in 2009. The administration said no. Part of the reason was budget issues. But there was also a large number of students who protested against adding to the arsenal of police. Since that time, administrators say they have taken steps to make the campus safer.

“That means building the relationships with area law enforcement, making sure we’re training together with them so we have solid response,” said Jason Wettstein, a school spokesman.

The Evergreen State College Police Chief Ed Sorger said his officers are trained to respond to active shooters and engage them immediately to prevent casualties. Right now, they would do so with handguns.

When asked if he would like his officers to also have rifles and shields, he said, “Yes.”