Fresh push underway to disarm PSU officers

Education

PSU officers have been armed since 2015

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Eight months after Portland State University officials decided not to disarm campus police, another rally calling for them to be disarmed is set to begin at 11 a.m. Friday.

Protest organizers said they want PSU to remove the Campus Public Safety Office, redirect those resources to support alternatives, extend furloughs to the campus police and stop policing the houseless people on campus.

This move comes in the wake of the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd and calls to “defund the police,” including proposals the Portland City Council is considering.

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The previous move to disarm campus officers at PSU followed the shooting death of Jason Washington in 2018.

The Portland State University Board of Trustees met on October 10, 2019, to discuss a new campus safety plan. (KOIN)

Washington was killed outside the Cheerful Tortoise on June 29, 2018. He had a concealed weapon permit and had a gun when he was shot. But documents show he took the gun from his friend earlier in the evening to keep his friend from getting into trouble.

A grand jury ruled no criminal prosecution of Officer James Dewey and Officer Shawn McKenzie was warranted in the shooting, which occurred near the PSU campus at SW 6th Avenue and College Street.

When PSU officials decided to keep campus officers armed, they said there will be more oversight and training for officers on campus. The plan also includes strengthening the security of campus buildings with electronic access pads and hiring 4 additional unarmed campus safety officers to bring the total number to 10. PSU will retain its 10 armed police officers.

Officers have been carrying guns on campus since 2015.

In a statement to KOIN 6 News, PSU officials said:

Portland State University respects the right of students, faculty, staff and visitors to peacefully protest on campus. Free expression is central to a vibrant university community. We support the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing advocacy for more action to achieve racial justice in our community and across the nation. We also understand why current events have stirred strong feelings about armed campus public safety officers in the wake of the tragic death of Mr. Jason Washington two years ago.

President Stephen Percy has heard from many members of the campus community concerned about the presence of armed officers on campus as well as other issues of community safety. He will share their concerns and outline plans for moving forward at the next Board of Trustees meeting on June 18. The common goal shared by everyone at PSU is to provide a safe and secure campus for all students, faculty, staff and visitors.

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