Building a case for campus police

2018-02-11T23:17:11+05:00 r a siddiqui

Pakistani University campuses are witnessing an increase in violence at an alarming rate. Last year’s tragic murder of Mashal Khan at Bacha Khan University is an early warning that campuses have a tendency to degenerate into war zones. Only a few weeks ago the principal of a college was slain by a student in Charsadsa. Then came truly disturbing news. The alleged gang rape of a female student of Siraiki department at Bahauddin Zakariya University. Last week erupted a serious ethnic brawl at Quaid i Azam University where windscreens and taillights of three parked vehicles were shattered. One of which belonged to a female faculty member. Students were witnessed beating each other with sticks, which had nails to maximize injury. Habitual violence at Punjab University campus needs no introduction. The same can be said of all big campuses dotting the map of Pakistan.

While Pakistan proudly tests ballistic misses like Ghauri and Abdali which can annihilate its real or imaginary enemy in the future, it should also be able to adequately protect its youth on campuses in the present. However, this is not the case. What is wrong with this picture? Even if a fraction of the annual funds spent on our war machinery are utilized on creating a campus police force, the violence could be at least somewhat if not totally prevented. This merits building a case for campus police. Let me be the first to suggest it. Also, it would make exciting research to do the math on the national expenditure that would accrue in this endeavour.

Every foreign university where I taught always had a highly functional campus police. The University of Dar es Salam in Tanzania, a relatively smaller country, had a campus police-station at the top of the hill. Smartly uniformed policewomen patrolled the campus. Realizing from my broken Swahili that I was foreign faculty they would even give me an occasional ride if I got lost. The University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where I worked for a year had the most robust campus police. It was a strong police force due to the heavy crime in the city in the midst of which the university was located. I recall one day I was asked by the police to return and drive from the anterior gate to my office because there had been a firing incident. An armoured salary truck had been attacked in a heist and there had been a shootout between the thieves and the campus police, killing one robber. In Ankara, while teaching at Bilkent University, I once lost my purse. I went to the office of the “gendarme” which sent out a notice. To my delight, a student found my pocketbook next day. I opened it and noticed something unprecedented. It was intact with all my ID cards as well as the full amount of money. I fell in love with Turkey that day. Yale University where I did my postdoc and returned every summer as research associate you can call the campus police from designated blue phones on the streets and the police escorts you from the library back home to safety at night. I can say this of all campuses I’ve lived worldwide. There is an inbuilt security mechanism available to the University for any contingency. They do not have to wait for the city police to come and resolve their urgent sometimes life-threatening crises. So what’s preventing Pakistani universities to have their own campus police?

There should be statutory provisions enshrined in the University Acts of Pakistan’s public universities for the commissioning of sworn campus police officers. According to a recently published, highly acclaimed book by Pete Canavan on How to Be the Safest College Campus, in most US universities with the exception of few, the campus public safety departments are actual police departments and able to perform all the duties of sworn police officers including making arrests, issue citations, etc. These departments operate either as individual police departments on campus in cooperation with local law enforcement or as a part of the local police force (city or state). These officers go through exactly the same training (typically 6 months full-time or more) as local police officers do, but they typically only operate within the campus property. They could, in theory, assist local law enforcement when necessary if that agreement exists between the two departments.

In my thirty years long career as a professor in this country, I have taught many students who subsequently became police officers amongst many other illustrious professions. It fills me with great pride to say that from Gilgit to Karachi many of my students serve in the Pakistan Police Force. I hope one day they will be able to assist our country in making our campuses safe by becoming pioneers in building a brand new institution of independent campus police systems.

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