San Fran's City College Loses Chief Over No-Guns Policy

Despite 40 on police and security force, no officers armed


The police chief at City College of San Francisco has resigned after failing to persuade the school to let his officers carry firearms.

The no-guns policy is unusual on college campuses but is a long-standing tradition at City College, Chancellor Philip Day said Monday. He said he had received Chief Carl Koehler's letter of resignation, dated May 29, last week. Koehler will officially step down June 22.

"It was totally voluntary," said Day, adding that Koehler had recently received a rating of "satisfactory to outstanding" on his recent performance review and that administrators had recommended that his three-year contract be extended.

"I know that some other community college districts have their police force armed," Day said. "We do not, and I think that's a reflection of the overall culture and climate of the school and San Francisco ... in terms of nonviolence."

Koehler began pushing for a policy change to allow his officers to carry guns two years ago, Day said, and renewed his efforts after Seung-Hui Cho killed 27 students and five faculty members April 16 at Virginia Tech.

City College has 30 police officers and 10 security officers. The department depends on San Francisco police to help with incidents in which armed officers may be needed, such as an April 24 case in which a 53-year-old student was arrested after shouting that he was going to kill his classmates.

Koehler could not be reached for comment Monday, but said after the Virginia Tech massacre that his officers were at a disadvantage without guns.

"We are here on campus and we know the buildings and we are going to be the first ones on scene," he said. "Now our plan is to have our officers back off and get the armed officers there. ... When something happens, minutes are very important and we do rely on the San Francisco Police Department. They are awesome, but they do have their issues of staffing."

Koehler spent 29 years with the San Francisco Sheriff's Department, rising to chief deputy sheriff, before coming to City College. Day said Koehler had been told about City College's no-guns policy when he interviewed for the chief's job three years ago and had assured administrators that he could work without armed officers.

"I asked him the question pointedly," Day said.

The college's Board of Trustees has the authority to decide whether officers carry guns, but Day said Koehler's suggestion has never gotten that far. Coordinated letter-writing campaigns have periodically urged administrators to change the policy, but students, faculty members and staffers overwhelmingly favor keeping the campus gun-free, the chancellor said.

"This is a hot-button issue for this college community, and frankly it's a hot-button issue for me," he said. "All along the way (Koehler) got rebuffed, and then he went outside the college and got some people to write letters."