The Florida A&M University Police Officer’s Union says its members are ill equipped to handle major or violent crimes on campus, and worry about their ability to keep students safe.
At a recent Board of Trustees meeting, officer Stacey Youmans said the union had raised the issue six years ago with a previous Board of Trustees, which promised to address the issue but never did.
“Now that people have found out that we don’t have enough police officers, there might be more crimes,” said officer Youmans, who has been on the force for nine years and is also the spokesperson for the FAMU Police Benevolent Association.
Statistics show that the FAMU police department is at the bottom of the pay scale, when compared to Florida State University, University of Florida, and University of South Florida.
Youmans says this makes no sense, because FAMU has fewer on staff than other schools so there should be more money for equipment and compensation.
In 2008, an FSU police officer earned $37,000 to $39,000. In 2007, the FAMU police department received a raise from approximately $32,000 to $34,000. Currently, they are still at $34,000.
Youmans said that the police have a three-year contract, and every three years they are suppose to get a raise from the negotiations but the raise that took place in 2007 did not come from negotiations. The first time the PBA went to the university representatives, they refused to negotiate their salaries, but told them they could not do it.
In 2005 they offered to give the police officers $1,000 and fix their vehicles, weapons and give them a three year contract, but PBA rejected the offer. But they said that if the police officers do not take this offer they will not get vehicles.
The PBA said FAMU’s police department is not properly equipped to respond to major or violent crimes.
In the last two months, the police department has disarmed three people, who were committing crimes with guns. In a two-year period, there have been five people shot on campus.
One case was recent as March 18; a FAMU employee was robbed and assaulted near Truth Hall, according to FAMU PD. Two days later, a FAMU student was robbed at gunpoint near FAMU DRS days after the FAMU PD received an emergency call from a victim who was robbed at gunpoint near the Palmetto North complex.
“I don’t feel safe after hearing that, but we don’t have any money for scholarships, programs, grants and other financial concerns, but we are trying to get better,” said Arielle Turner, 22, a fourth year biology chemistry student.
Officers feel unprepared if a deadly force response is required. Some of their weapons are 15 years old making it hard when encountering criminals who have fire arms of higher caliber.
It has also been announced that the officers consider their vehicles unsafe.
Youmans said FAMU PD vehicles are 12 years old, front tires have disconnected from the vehicle while in operation, response time to emergency situations delayed because the vehicle would not go into gear, unreliable steering and other problems while the vehicles are still operating.
Despite the concerns, some students feel safe.
“I feel safe,” said Roselene Borenave, 18, a second year psychology student. “Nothing has affected me personally or anyone that I know, but I think they (FAMU PD) should get paid more.”