By: Paige Baker
The ASU Police Department announced, Sept. 29, that they would be returning the military weaponry issued to them last year, as distrust of police rises in Tempe neighborhoods.
Nearly a year and a half after the original issue of 70 semi-automatic M16 assault rifles to campus police, ASU spokeswoman Julie Newberg said the department is in the process of exchanging the weapons for “standard but newer rifles,” which could be used in the event of an on-campus shooter.
Despite ASU’s insistence that all officers and accompanying weaponry serve the sole purpose of ensuring the protection and safety of students, many local residents dispute this claim, citing their own experiences with the department’s misuse of authority.
The community’s distrust has moved beyond the ASU Police Department to the entire Tempe Police Department.
Anikki Giessler, a student at ASU, said that in light of both first and second-hand encounters with the police department, she no longer feels safe around the Tempe Police, but in fact, the opposite; particularly paying mind to the Safe and Sober campaign that ended in September.
Giessler is not alone. The community group Maple – Ash – Farmer – Wilson Neighborhood, which is nearly 2,000 members strong, has largely adopted an “anti-cop” mentality, with some members even refusing to call the police in the event of a crime; and reprimanding those who do.
“Calling the police is never the right thing” one comment read, in a thread where neighbors discussed alternatives to calling the police. Alternatives such as owning guns, taking self-defense classes and generally “staying empowered” against criminals, with hopes that fewer calls to police could result in a lessened police presence in the city.
“These weapons are not necessary here in Tempe,” Giessler said. “Heavy weaponry and militarized mentality … have never proven to amplify safety, and deeply go against democratic principles.”