University to Implement First Phase of GWPD Arming Plan, Continues to Seek Community Feedback

As part of a comprehensive approach to public safety, a multi-phase process will begin with arming top two GWPD officials.

August 21, 2023

GW Police Department

After incorporating input from George Washington University community members, the university on Monday shared more information regarding its implementation plan to arm highly trained supervisory officers. In the coming weeks, the university will begin the first of a multi-phase implementation process, arming GW Police Department executive supervisory officers Chief James Tate and Captain Gabe Mullinax.

The university announced in April that it would begin planning to arm GWPD supervisors. Arming is an important part of a comprehensive public safety plan, in part because of rising gun violence nationally and the need for GWPD supervisory officers—who are most familiar with GW’s campuses, community and culture—to respond to life-threatening emergencies. This is particularly crucial in the university’s densely populated setting and during incidents when response time is critical.

 The university sought community input on its planning, and throughout the spring, leadership met with various student groups, faculty, staff, neighbors and other stakeholders. In the summer, they reviewed all comments submitted through an online feedback portal and used the input to revise the original plan.

The implementation was strengthened by the feedback received, and the phased approach will allow the university to continue to incorporate community input collected through the GWPD website and meetings with stakeholders while arming additional supervisors in future phases.

“We have received extremely helpful input from our community so far, and it has improved our planning,” said GW President Ellen M. Granberg. “Some community members have voiced their concerns, and our work now is to continue to ensure our implementation is guided by community feedback. Ultimately, safety is our foremost priority, and this is deeply personal for each of us based on our identities and experiences. I want everyone not only to be safe but also to feel safe on our campuses.”

The five-part implementation plan announced Monday is outlined below and on the GWPD website.

1: Arming Scope and Strategy

The full implementation plan envisions arming GWPD’s supervisors only. The plan will begin at the start of the 2023 academic year with the arming of executive supervisory officers Tate and Mullinax. Subsequently, additional supervisors will be armed in phases as requirements are met and community input is incorporated.

2: Use of Force Policy Review and Revisions

The university revised its Use of Force Policy, based on feedback from the community, to better define the “specific circumstances” where force may be used; prohibit use of chokeholds or otherwise restricting breathing; and clarify use of force when protecting officers’ lives or the lives of others; among other updates.

3: Training Requirements

GWPD supervisors undergo rigorous training and must meet several important requirements. The current implementation plan clarifies the robust training and requirements that ensure armed police have best-in-class preparation before arming.

In order to be armed, all supervisors will complete implicit bias training every semester; de-escalation training once per month; mental health response training three times per year; firearms qualification three times per year (whereas D.C. requires once per year); and virtual reality simulator training once per month.

Supervisors will also receive new background investigations and psychological evaluations prior to arming, and any armed supervisors new to GW will undergo a pre-arming period to ensure they understand GW’s campus and community before arming.

4: Independent Review Committee

When announcing the decision to arm supervisors, the university shared that it would form an Independent Review Committee (IRC) to provide additional oversight of GWPD, and community input helped to shape aspects of this committee. The committee will include faculty, staff and student representatives and will review all instances of use of force with a firearm. Development of a nomination and application process for establishing permanent IRC membership is underway, and the university will continue to consider community feedback as that process takes shape. In the meantime, an interim IRC will be appointed while the permanent IRC is being established and before any arming begins.

5: Continued Community Engagement

While GWPD already maintains close relationships with the campus and surrounding communities, additional efforts will be underway this fall to increase safety awareness and visibility, including:

  • Participating in student events, including in a non-law enforcement capacity.
  • Engaging the Faculty Senate and Staff Council.
  • Continuing to deploy student outreach liaisons.
  • Collaborating with residential and student life.
  • Attending neighborhood meetings.

“It’s critical that we continue our ongoing engagement with our students, faculty, staff and neighbors so that we account for the varying perspectives of our diverse stakeholders moving forward,” Tate said.

Additionally, a Campus Safety Advisory Committee will be developed and include students, faculty and staff who meet with GWPD to increase engagement on safety concerns. The university is seeking input from the community about the composition, scope and charge of this committee.

Additional Public Safety Planning Enhancements

Arming implementation is one component of a comprehensive public safety plan for GW’s campuses. In addition to arming, the university also is making improvements to mental health concerns response, building security reviews, active shooter response training and review and testing of the emergency notification systems.

Next steps

After the first phase of arming—which provides coverage of two armed executive supervisory officers during the busiest part of the week—additional arming will occur in a multi-phase process contingent on a successful first phase. The university will incorporate any additional community feedback as arming continues. Tate and other university leadership also will meet with more students, faculty, staff and neighbors in the coming weeks.

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