Trigger Warning- Guns, weapons
The presence of armed police and sniffer dogs at Falmer campus on the afternoon of 7 February left many students unsettled and confused. An official statement from University of Sussex internal communications in the evening clarified that the police response was as a result of a report to university security, rather than as a result of the other events happening simultaneously. The report was allegedly about an individual on campus carrying a knife.
Following an investigation, a 22-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon in a public place. Sussex Police reported on 12 February that the incident investigation had concluded. There appeared to be no malicious intent, and a community resolution has been implemented.
While the majority of the UK police force is unarmed, a response from Authorised Firearms Officers is warranted when there are reports of weapons or firearms. Police deployment is based on a decision-making model that takes into account intelligence and assessed threats.
While on campus, six police officers carrying guns mistakenly entered at least one student flat due to a misunderstanding of block and flat numbers. They were reportedly searching for an individual living in on-campus accommodation. Armed police officers remained on campus questioning students who lived in nearby accommodation until the early hours of the morning on 8 February.
A coincidentally-timed – but completely unrelated – student-staff pro-Palestine protest against weapons production, which marched from campus to the nearby L3 Harris factory in Moulsecoomb, occurred at roughly the same time as the police arrival on campus. This led to widespread uncertainty over whether the police presence was a result of the protest. One student who attended said “we were confused as to why there were so many armed police” and told The Badger that “once [the protesters] left campus we were told that [the police] were keeping a watch on us” for safety reasons.
The police presence was also not related to the Holocaust Memorial Day event that took place at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) the same afternoon.
The University and College Union (UCU) Sussex Executive shared a statement with members on 8 February addressing the incident. They highlighted received reports that the armed police had been “racially profiling and intimidating staff and students entering campus,” and gave assurance that they are “proactively engaging with the University to establish the facts.” The UCU also collected witness accounts from those present.
If you need to alert the security team to any incidents on campus, the 24-hour Security helpline is 01273 873333.