Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Monday, June 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

Asiya Kazi

NEWS 1/27/14 6:00pm

RUPD arms officers with pepper spray

The Rice University Police Department now uses pepper spray as a nonlethal use-of-force option, according to Chief of Police Johnny Whitehead. The only nonlethal use-of-force option RUPD officers had previously was the baton. Upon noticing several incidents in which suspects resisted arrest or assaulted RUPD officers, Whitehead asked RUPD staff to research other use-of-force options.According to Whitehead, many police departments around the country have added tasers and pepper spray besides batons. After finding research that showed pepper spray reduces injuries those involved, RUPD conferred with university officials and was given permission to deploy pepper spray in October 2013, Whitehead said."In December, our officers received training in the use of OC Spray," Whitehead said. "The training included guidelines for appropriate use of OC Spray and how to treat a person exposed to OC Spray."  Now, RUPD officers carry 1.47-ounce canisters of pepper spray, which they may use to protect themselves or others from physical harm and to control resisting suspects, according to Whitehead.Martel College freshman Neethi Nayak said she thinks using pepper spray infringes on suspects' rights in some ways, but understands why it may be necessary. "If they're having a lot of trouble, if there's not an alternative, then that might be the way to go," Nayak said. "But it kind of freaks me out a little bit. It's kind of a vulnerable moment for people since it's your personal space, your body." Jones College sophomore Sameer Kini said he accepts police officers using pepper spray on an irregular basis. "If the situation warrants it, I think it's fine," Kini said. "I don't think it should be abused by the officer, the right to use pepper spray."  Whitehead said a policy called the Use of Force Continuum governs the usage of pepper spray, such that the level of force used by the officer depends on the level of resistance by the suspect."When making an arrest, officers try to gain compliance using their presence and verbal directions," Whitehead said. "If that fails, the officer may have to become physical by grabbing or pulling the suspect. If the suspect continues to resist or becomes assaultive, the officer's response may escalate to the use of a non-lethal weapon such as the baton or OC spray.""Anytime [pepper] spray is used by an officer, the incident is reviewed by a supervisor and the findings submitted to the chief of police," Whitehead said.Kini said he thinks pepper spray would be more effective than batons for officers to send a strong message to suspects. "If you're going to take down a suspect, it's going to be more painful to them to use pepper spray, and it's probably a more effective tool [than batons] if someone is out of control," Kini said.  Nayak said she thinks batons might be more effective than pepper spray in obtaining a suspect's cooperation. "If the suspect is violent, then it comes to the point where the police officer's safety is in question as well," Nayak said. "I feel like with pepper spray, you might get a more negative response from the suspect. It's more agitation. It's not just 'Listen to me!' kind of thing, it's more like 'I'm in your face right now.'"According to Whitehead, the use of pepper spray is potentially useful in situations involving more dangerous criminals. "Many of the suspects our officers encounter have no affiliation with Rice, have extensive criminal histories, are on parole or probation and have a history of assaulting officers and resisting arrests," Whitehead said. "Although it is rare that our officers have to use force beyond verbal commands or hands-on tactics [for] an arrest, the use of [pepper] spray is prudent, safe and effective."

NEWS 8/28/13 7:00pm

School of Humanities departments relocated

The School of Humanities was structurally modified in four ways on July 1, 2013.The Sports Management program was relocated to the School of Social Sciences, the Department of Kinesiology was moved to Wiess School of Natural Sciences, the Chao Center for Asian Studies was shifted from the Office of the Provost to the School of Social Sciences, and the Department of Hispanic Studies was changed to the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.  Dean of the School of Social Sciences Lyn Ragsdale said that Social Sciences faculty were very excited about Sports Management joining the School of Social Sciences."It is a good fit, and we are working to fully integrate the program into the School of Social Sciences," Ragsdale said.The Department of Kinesiology's move to the Wiess School resulted mainly from changes in its curriculum since its inception, according to Dean of the School of Natural Sciences Daniel Carson."The disciplines of kinesiology have evolved significantly over the years and in their current state are well aligned with other disciplines in the natural sciences," Carson said.Carson said that the decision-making process was partially based on recommendation by an external program review team which conducted student interviews. "I feel the ... Department of Kinesiology's shift to the School of Natural Sciences is a good move," kinesiology major Christopher Chu said. "Kinesiology is more aligned with what people might think of as a natural science, rather than a humanities, as there are many elements of biology and physics within the discipline."Chu, a Hanszen College junior, said that the kinesiology major has not changed curriculum as a result of its relocation. "I have not noticed any differences in the major and I anticipate little change as I do not think the classes will be restructured substantially," Chu, a Hanszen College junior, said. "I do think that the major may become more popular for those interested in health professions."Dean of the School of Humanities Nicolas Shumway cited the high presence of humanities faculty at the Chao Center as a major reason for its relocation to the School of Humanities.  "Given these numbers, it is clear that the academic center of gravity of the [Chao Center] is in the School of Humanities," Shumway stated.Shumway said the Chao Center was originally part of the Office of the Provost because faculty felt its interdisciplinary nature might be hampered by placing it in a particular school.  However, Shumway said faculty soon realized interdisciplinary programs do not need to report to central administration to be effective."All Rice Schools have programs that serve beyond their supposed disciplinary boundaries," Shumway stated. "In fact, one of our most effective interdisciplinary units is the Humanities Research Center whose programs include folks from the social sciences, architecture, music and even the Texas Medical Center."Asian Studies major William Otter said he does not believe the School of Humanities is necessarily the right place for the Chao Center. "When you talk about the students majoring in Asian Studies, almost all of us have a second major, and there isn't a single academic school that predominates," Otter, a Brown College junior, said. "There are a bunch of humanities kids, a bunch of social sciences kids, and even a good number of engineering and natural sciences majors."While Shumway said that this year's Chao Center will operate identically to previous years, Otter said he worries the Center will focus research disproportionately on humanities disciplines as a result of its placement."I hope that we don't lose our Social Sciences support from professors and the Baker Institute because ... I think that side of the center does very interesting work that strengthens the department as a whole," Otter said.Lastly, Shumway said the rising presence of Brazilian studies on Rice's campus led to the Department of Hispanic Studies' expansion to the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.  "We've increased offerings in Portuguese language study, including a new accelerated course titled 'Portuguese for Spanish Speakers' and study abroad opportunities in Brazil," Shumway said.