Enhancing Public Safety

Updated March 2024.

In 2023, the university began a multi-phase process to arm GWPD supervisors, starting with two supervisory officers. The university proceeded to the second phase in February 2024 by arming an additional five supervisory officers.

Nominations for the Campus Safety Advisory Committee, which was envisioned in the implementation plan, opened March 1. This committee will serve an important role in identifying and highlighting positive safety practices as well as concerns and challenges on GW’s campuses. It will include students, faculty, staff, and a community member. Members will meet regularly to increase engagement on campus safety. Appointments to this committee are expected to be completed in April.

This website contains information about the arming process, including the current status, background, implementation framework, and a feedback form for continued community engagement.



As of February 2024


(Two in Phase 1 and five in Phase 2)


The safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff remains a critical priority. Arming is an important part of a comprehensive public safety plan in part because of rising gun violence nationally and the need for GW supervisory officers—who are most familiar with GW’s campuses, community and culture—to respond to life-threatening emergencies. This is particularly crucial in the university’s densely populated setting and during incidents when response time is critical.

In April 2023, the university announced that it would begin planning to arm GWPD supervisors.  After incorporating input from GW community members, in August 2023 the university completed the first phase of the implementation process by arming two executive supervisory officers, while continuing to seek feedback on the process and other enhancements to public safety. The university then moved to phase two in February 2024.

Updated Implementation Planning Framework

1: Arming Scope and Strategy
The full implementation plan envisions arming GWPD’s supervisors only. The plan will begin at the start of the 2023 academic year with the initial arming of two executive supervisors—Chief James Tate and Captain Gabe Mullinax. Subsequently, additional supervisors will be armed in phases as requirements are met and community input is incorporated. 

2: Use of Force Policy Review and Revisions
A new Use of Force Policy was created and emphasizes the sanctity of life, de-escalation requirement, gradations of force and explicit restrictions on use of deadly force.

3: Training Requirements
Armed supervisors will be required to be trained regularly on de-escalation, implicit bias, mental health response, firearms qualification and the virtual reality training simulator. Additionally, armed supervisors will undergo new background investigations and psychological evaluations. The pre-arming period for newly hired supervisors will provide campus cultural fluency.

4: Independent Review Committee
An Independent Review Committee will be created to provide additional review and accountability with respect to the arming of qualified supervisory GWPD officers.  The committee will be composed of faculty, staff, and students, and chaired by a member of the faculty.  The committee will be charged with:

  • Reviewing any GWPD supervisory officer’s use of force involving a firearm while on duty. “Use of force involving a firearm” includes any use of a firearm, including unholstering.
  • Producing a publicly available annual report summarizing the committee’s work and including any recommendations it may have for GWPD policy or procedure changes.

The committee will be independent of GWPD and will not replace GWPD’s internal review and disciplinary procedures.

5: Continued Community Engagement

  • GWPD will continue community engagement and outreach efforts as means to build trust and open lines of communication with the GW community.
  • A new Campus Safety Advisory Committee will be launched.  This committee will include students, faculty, staff, and community members and will meet regularly to increase engagement on safety concerns.

Additional Public Safety Planning Enhancements
Initiatives are underway to enhance and continue to improve GW’s comprehensive public safety approach. These include:

  • Response to Mental Health Concerns: Continued evaluation of how police interact with people in crisis and enhance protocols to align with best practices.
  • Building Security: Regular review of access to campus buildings and recommendations on changes based on safety and security considerations.
  • Active Shooter Response Training: Review of opportunities to train community on lockdowns, use of security technology available in classrooms and buildings, and response to active shooter situations.
  • Emergency Notifications System: Regular review and testing of comprehensive emergency notifications systems.

Additional Details and Resources

Read the Implementation Frequently Asked Questions

Share Your Feedback

We are seeking feedback and perspectives from our community about ways we can improve the implementation process and other suggestions you may have.

Please provide your feedback via the form below.

Full name

Community Conversations on Arming

Staff Conversation

On Sept. 13, Chief Tate participated in a conversation with Sabrina Minor, vice president and chief people officer, and answered questions from staff about the arming implementation plan.

Student Conversation

On Sept. 15, Chief Tate participated in a conversation with Colette Coleman, vice provost for student affairs and dean of students, and answered students' questions about arming supervisory officers.

Recent Updates

GWPD Chief of Police James Tate

"It’s critical that we continue our ongoing engagement with our students, faculty, staff and neighbors so that we account for the varying perspectives of our diverse stakeholders moving forward."

James Tate
Chief of Police, GWPD

Frequently Asked Questions 

What has the university done in recent years to improve safety at GW?

The university has equipped buildings, residential units, and classrooms with electronic access, allowing us to quickly and efficiently secure building doors remotely through a single platform. Faculty are able to secure classroom doors electronically while simultaneously signaling for police response via emergency lockdown buttons within classrooms. Our new emergency notification system allows dispatchers to activate alerts nearly immediately from a single platform in the event of a life-threatening emergency. We also have completed other safety enhancements over the past few years, such as upgrading and adding security cameras and creating active shooter protocols and trainings.

GW Police Chief James Tate has prioritized accountability, transparency, and trust. He has taken steps to increase communication and community engagement, particularly with students; improve officer training, including introduction of de-escalation and implicit bias training; improve the response to mental health concerns; and implement the use of body-worn cameras.

Why did the university make the decision to arm supervisory officers?

The university made this decision in part due to the concerning rise in gun violence nationally, alignment with best practices in campus safety, and location and response time.

In recent years there have been too many tragic instances of mass gun violence in communities and on college campuses. In the past several months alone, we have noted with deep concern shooting incidents at educational institutions, including at Michigan State University, the University of Virginia, and an elementary school in Nashville. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of August 2023 there have been more than 400 mass shootings this year. Immediacy of response to such events is critical, but whenever weapons are involved, unarmed officers cannot respond and must rely instead on the response of other armed law enforcement.

The Board of Trustees and university leadership also recognize the need for arming given the university’s densely populated setting and importance of having individuals involved in incident response who are familiar with and directly connected to our community. Our supervisory officers, who are stationed on campus and know its geography and logistics best, are a very important part of emergency response, especially during times of increased calls for service requiring the attention of our local partner agencies elsewhere in the District. When weapons are involved, minutes matter.

What is the implementation plan for arming?

The five-part implementation plan recently announced comprises the following:

1: Arming Scope and Strategy
The full implementation plan envisions arming GWPD’s supervisors only. The plan will begin at the start of the 2023 academic year with the arming of executive supervisory officers Tate and Mullinax. Subsequently, additional supervisors will be armed in phases as requirements are met and community input is incorporated. 


2: Use of Force Policy Review and Revisions
The university revised its Use of Force Policy, based on feedback from the community, to better define the “specific circumstances” where force may be used; prohibit use of chokeholds or otherwise restricting breathing; and clarify use of force when protecting officers’ lives or the lives of others; among other updates.


3: Training Requirements
GWPD supervisors undergo rigorous training and must meet several important requirements. The current implementation plan clarifies the robust training and requirements that ensure armed police have best-in-class preparation before arming.

In order to be armed, all supervisors will complete implicit bias training every semester; de-escalation training once per month; mental health response training three times per year; firearms qualification three times per year (whereas D.C. requires once per year); and virtual reality simulator training once per month. 

Supervisors will also receive new background investigations and psychological evaluations prior to arming, and any armed supervisors new to GW will undergo a pre-arming period to ensure they understand GW’s campus and community before arming.


4: Independent Review Committee
When announcing the decision to arm supervisors, the university shared that it would form an Independent Review Committee (IRC) to provide additional oversight of GWPD, and community input helped to shape aspects of this committee. The committee will include faculty, staff, and student representatives and will review all instances of use of force with a firearm. Development of a nomination and application process for establishing permanent IRC membership is underway, and the university will continue to consider community feedback as that process takes shape. In the meantime, an interim IRC will be appointed while the permanent IRC is being established and before any arming begins.


5: Continued Community Engagement
While GWPD already maintains close relationships with the campus and surrounding communities, additional efforts will be underway this fall to increase safety awareness and visibility, including: participating in student events, including in a non-law enforcement capacity; engaging the Faculty Senate and Staff Council; continuing to deploy student outreach liaisons; collaborating with residential and student life; and attending neighborhood meetings.

Additionally, a Campus Safety Advisory Committee will be developed and include students, faculty and staff who meet with GWPD to increase engagement on safety concerns. The university is seeking input from the community about the composition, scope and charge of this committee.

Additional Public Safety Planning Enhancements
Arming implementation is one component of a comprehensive public safety plan for GW’s campuses. In addition to arming, the university also is making improvements to mental health concerns response, building security reviews, active shooter response training, and review and testing of the emergency notification systems.

How many supervisory officers will be armed in each phase of the process?

The university's arming implementation plan is a multi-phase process. In phase 1, two executive supervisory officers will be armed. In phase 2, five supervisory officers will be armed. Over the course of phase 3, corporals and sergeants will be armed. When all current vacancies are filled for these roles, a total of 22 supervisors will be armed. Supervisory officers are only armed after meeting the rigorous training and certification requirements outlined in the implementation plan.

Who are the members of the interim Independent Review Committee?

The interim IRC members are:

  • Elizabeth Bouseman, Graduate Student
  • Mitchell Foster, Staff
  • Lionel Howard, Faculty, Graduate School of Education and Human Development
  • John Philbeck, Faculty, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences
  • Kimberly Shaw, Staff
  • Salmoncain Smith-Shomade, Undergraduate Student
  • Amita Vyas, Faculty, Milken Institute School of Public Health (Chair)

How can I provide my feedback?

We are seeking feedback and perspectives from our community about ways we can improve the implementation process and other suggestions you may have. Please provide your feedback via the form above.

When will I get additional information?

The university will continue to consider all implementation comments, which will guide planning for future phases, and keep the community informed throughout the implementation process.