PSU hearing on disarming officers brings hundreds

Civic Affairs

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Representatives from an independent safety and security consultant just finished discussing their campus safety report on Thursday during a special meeting with the PSU Board of Trustees, students and the public.

These findings come after students and staff called on the university to disarm campus safety officers following the shooting death of Jason Washington in the summer of 2018.

As a result, the university hired Margolis Healy to look into the issue and provide solutions.

“The bottom line is that the campus is divided,” the consultant said. “There is a high degree of mistrust between some members of the campus community and the university — and we believe that has impacted the way the campus safety engages with the campus community.”

Some of the report’s key recommendations include:

  • Enhancing officer training

  • Increasing oversight of campus safety officers

  • Adding more unarmed officers

  • Developing a community liaison unit

The report also includes the results from more than 4,000 opinion surveys of students, faculty and staff. Fifty-two percent of participants want PSU to disarm their 10 sworn police officers. Roughly, 37% believe the officers should keep their firearms while 10% had no opinion.

Out of the 30,000 students at PSU, about 14% responded to the survey.

KOIN coverage on the Jason Washington case

Board members, students, faculty, staff and the public were given the opportunity Thursday to ask the consultants questions and share their comments.

“We don’t see police as inherently safe, we see policing as a system that is inherently violent and we think there are other alternatives to keeping our community safe besides just solving our problems with weapons,” PSU Student Union organizer Olivia Pace said.

In closing, the safety and security consultant recommends that PSU continues with the decision to arm sworn campus police officers so that they can respond to potentially violent situations.

While the university’s board didn’t vote on the report’s recommendations Thursday, they did say there will be more steps in gathering campus and community input based on the report.

Board Chair Gale Castillo said PSU will create a campus safety committee that includes students, faculty and staff. The committee will gather feedback on the Margolis Healy report across campus and the information will be used to help the board make a decision in May or June on how to enhance campus safety. 

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