Special constables have the potential to make students feel less safe, not more

Photo: 

Introducing special constables to university campuses has become increasingly popular in recent years but fails to acknowledge the negative impact this might have on students.

Ryerson University recently announced it will be adopting a “hybrid model” of on-campus security involving the use of special constables, citing an increase in crime on campus. These crimes include minor offences like mischief, trespassing, and drug use.

Carleton University, the University of Toronto, and more Ontario universities have already established special constables on campus.

While increased security is intended to make campuses safer for students, it creates the potential for racial profiling. On campus, these constables would have the same authority as police officers, with the ability to make arrests and use force. They would also be trained on de-escalation tactics and unconscious bias.

It’s anticipated that constables will be armed with batons and pepper spray, though The Eyeopener emphasized it was unclear whether these weapons had been approved.

Regardless, the potential for armed constables generates the fear these weapons could be used against students. While racial bias training is a start, it isn’t enough. On-campus police presence could make some students feel less safe, especially students of colour and other minority groups who are disproportionately affected by police violence.

Special constables also have the potential to escalate tensions during student protests on campus.

The Editorial Board feels this level of security is unnecessary on campuses and that the risk to people of colour far outweighs any benefits. The minor offences at Ryerson don’t justify police presence, let alone warrant the need for weapons.

Prior to enacting this policy, Ryerson should’ve consulted students on campus. Despite their claims to boost campus safety, the university failed to ask students whether they felt unsafe in the first place. Instead, the university cited concerns from community members instead of actual students.

Now, it could set a precedent for universities across Ontario.

Special constables are unnecessary. An increased police presence suggests there’s a threat students should worry about, potentially heightening tensions on campus.

Instead of responding to concerns from community members, Ryerson and other Ontario universities should consult their students before making changes to campus security. They should also be cognizant of the negative impacts police presence might have on minority groups.

Student safety is important, but feeling comfortable on campus is equally vital. The addition of special constables threatens that.

Journal Editorial Board

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.