Campus security, openness
It appears to be nothing more than coincidence that three times in just two months, law enforcement officers here have shot and killed someone.
Each incident has been markedly different, and now two different agencies – N. C. Central University police as well as Durham police – have been involved.
Monday night’s encounter near the NCCU campus is in many ways the most typical police-suspect encounter. As in the other two, the State Bureau of Investigation will investigate, as it does in all shootings in which an officer is involved.
We must await the outcome of that inquiry before drawing any firm conclusions, but based on initial indications, police had little recourse but to return fire against a suspect who apparently opened fire not once but twice on approaching officers. Durham police were pursuing him because he was a suspect in an armed robbery and in a residential break-in where weapons were stolen.
The Monday night encounter prompted immediate steps to help safeguard thousands of students, locking down the NCCU campus as police pursuit and gunfire was taking place on the edge of campus. And it inevitably raises questions about safety on campus.
As with incidents at Duke University earlier this year, in which students were accosted twice in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens and once in the heart of the campus’s main academic quadrangle, the NCCU situation is a reminder that college campuses are – and should be – open to and easily accessible by the public.
Restricting that access raises not just philosophical but practical questions. NCCU, particularly, is in the center of Durham, with busy public streets splitting the campus. We hope the student who voiced an opinion about isolating the campus to The Herald-Sun’s April Dudash Tuesday was fueled by adrenalin, hyberpole or perhaps both.
His assertion that “we should have a gated community, block the campus off from the rest of the community” would be as unwise as it would be unworkable.
Still, it is troubling that NCCU police said their plainclothes “strike team” questions a half-dozen people a night who should not be on campus.
“What we are finding is that that non-students, and mostly with a criminal history or criminal backgrounds, are coming through our campus on foot or by vehicle.”
Both Chancellor Debra Saunders-White and NCCU Police chief Timothy Bellamy stressed Tuesday that the campus is safe.
“Our campus was safe yesterday, and it was safe this morning, and it will be safe tonight,” Bellamy said at a Tuesday press conference. There is no doubt that is largely true.
But police were going to be stepping up patrols and Durham police have assigned extra officers to the area. Those measures seem both warranted and commendably measured.
Officials will, as they should, continue to look for ways to maximize the safety of their students, even as we acknowledge that no place can be completely safe.