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Campus Safety Writes Use of Force Policy
updated May 20, 2008

It's been a busy spring for Calvin campus safety director Bill Corner.

Bill CornerIn recent weeks he has led both incident command system training for the college (how Calvin would respond to such things as a weather-related disaster) and the adoption of a new Use of Force policy (approved by Calvin's Faculty Senate on April 7, 2008 and also approved by the Calvin Board of Trustees on May 16, 2008) that will include arming some campus safety supervisors (those who previously were certified police officers) for the first time in the history of the college (see list of qualified officers below).

Corner smiles wryly when asked about these new initiatives.

"In both cases," he says, "it would be nice to pretend we didn't have to worry about such things. But we do. One of our CCCU (Council of Christian Colleges and Universities) schools, Union, was hit by a tornado recently. We've had Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois. Schools are asking for trouble if they don't think about these things -- and have a plan for how they would respond if, God forbid, they had to face something similiar."

Making Calvin's Campus Even Safer

A 1989 Calvin graduate, Corner returned to his alma mater in 2005 as director of campus safety. In fact, it was a stint as a student worker in the campus safety department at Calvin that launched Corner on his eventual career path, one that included 14 years with the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Since his return to Calvin he has spent a lot of time thinking about how to make Calvin's already-safe campus even safer. He's placed a strong emphasis on educating people on Calvin's campus about how to make themselves safer. And in doing so he began to worry that one of the populations not as safe as it could be was his own officers!

The new Use of Force policy, which also bans the possession of weapons on campus, addresses that oversight, and, Corner believes, makes everyone on campus safer as a result.

"First and foremost, we want to be able to have a response to an active threat to anyone on our campus," Corner told Chimes, the college's student newspaper for an April 11, 2008 story. "We weren't able to safely and effectively address a threat in the past. By having this Use of Force policy and the proper equipment, we are trying to correct the lack of training and equipment our supervisors previously did not receive."

Training Key to Use of Force Policy

Campus Safety Supervisors Qualified to Carry a Gun Under the New Use of Force Policy

  • Bill Corner, 14 years, Grand Rapids Police
  • James Paul, 28 years, Michigan State Police
  • Steven Van't Hof, 30 years, Kent County Sheriff
  • Ron Venneman - 30 years, Kent County Sheriff

The Use of Force policy gives step-by-step details on the force considered necessary and reasonable in responding to various types of scenarios with the goals in each case being to save lives, prevent injury and overcome resistance. It also spends a lot of time talking about training, which Corner said is the critical component to the whole plan.

"The policy requires regular training," he said. "It doesn't work without the training."

That training, Corner said, would be done in conjunction with local law enforcement on an annual basis and would cover not only the use of firearms, but also such tactics as batons, pepper spray and handcuffs. Training also would be given in defensive tactics such as verbal commands, kicks, strikes and takedowns.

Supervisors authorized to carry a firearm will be tested four times a year and will undergo tests for marksmanship and drills that test their ability to react in specific circumstances. In addition, said Corner, supervisors who have been authorized to carry a firearm will all have been former law enforcement officers employed by a public law enforcement agency who left such agency while in good standing, will all possess a valid State of Michigan concealed carry weapons permit, and will all have passed all required background checks and psychological evaluations.

Corner noted that how campus safety was equipped to protect the campus has become of increasing interest to a wide variety of folks connected to the college, including students, parents and employees.

"We need to be able to respond to a threat in a safe and timely manner," he said. "Now we can."

Corner expects that the new measures will be in place by September 2008.

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