CAMPUS PUBLIC SAFETY AT PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY: A HOLISTIC APPROACH FOR AN URBAN UNIVERSITY

Strategic Plan

At PSU, public safety is a shared responsibility. We all have a role to play. It is this collective participation that creates the energy, assets, and behavior needed to produce a safe and secure campus. 

The campus public safety approach described in this document is offered as the next step to advancing our ethos of caring, equity and dignity for all.  The approach is based on learning, continuous improvement, and candid assessment. You are encouraged to help us achieve the goal of a safe campus by providing your comments on the new plan, or any other aspect of campus safety.

Your comments will be shared with the President and the University Public Safety Oversight Committee (UPSOC)

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KEY DOCUMENTS

FAQS

Q. Why have you decided not to disarm campus police?

A. Portland State needs both sworn, armed police officers and unarmed safety officers to ensure 24/7 coverage of our campus. PSU will have 10 sworn and armed campus police officers. That is the number currently budgeted for CPSO. Those officers have the training, authority and responsibility to enforce and investigate criminal activity on campus such as sexual assaults or threats of violence. We will expand CPSO’s nonsworn, unarmed campus public safety officers staff to 10 officers who will respond to calls, provide escorts and provide first aid and assistance. Those safety officers do not have the same authority to enforce and investigate crimes as sworn police officers.

Q. Why not rely on Portland Police Bureau for campus security like PSU did before it created an armed force? 

A. We know the Portland Police Bureau is still not able to appropriately support our campus, because we explored that question again in a recent meeting with the Mayor and Assistant Police Chief Chris Davis. Chief Davis began his career at Arizona State University and explained that policing on a university campus is very specialized and very different from what PPB trains its officers to do.  To police PSU, PPB officers would need special training since some city policies and practices would not be appropriate for PSU. According to Chief Davis, PPB cannot provide the type of policing we need and that it would be far better, since we have the authority, for PSU to have its own specialized university police department. 

Q. Are you increasing the number of armed police officers?

A. PSU will hire enough police officers to maintain an industry standard minimum level of coverage. This is two police officers and a supervisor on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We currently have four police officers.  To provide this minimum coverage, PSU will need to hire and train an additional six sworn officers.

Q. Why does the campus public safety plan not require a BOT vote?

A. Oversight of PSU’s public safety function is the job of the president. At the June 2019 Board meeting Interim President Stephen Percy committed to analyzing the information gathered over the past year and providing the campus community with an updated plan for public safety. The plan is now available. Its implementation does not require a vote of the Board.

Q. Did you take student opposition to having armed campus police into consideration while drafting this plan?

A. Yes. The Review and Response Committee met extensively with the leaders of student groups that have opposed having sworn, armed police on campus. They also met with student groups that believe an armed presence is needed to provide a safe and secure environment. The plan recognizes the issue of campus public safety is not a binary choice: to arm or to disarm. In the end, the President took responsibility for providing a holistic, multi-pronged approach that gives PSU the best chance to have a campus that is safe for all.

Q. How much will the plan cost?

A. PSU has set aside $300,000 in recurring strategic investment funds for hiring new personnel and an additional amount of one-time funds to purchase equipment and services required by the new campus safety plan.

Q. How long will it take to implement the new campus safety plan?

A. Implementation of the plan has already begun. CPSO has adopted and begun implementation of at least 25 of the Margolis Healy recommendations which they plan to have in place by the end of this academic year. Full implementation of this plan will depend upon recruitment and training and could take several years. 

Q. Did you have input from students in designing this plan?

A. Yes. Students served on the Review and Response Committee and UPSOC. Student focus groups, including members from the Black Student Union and PSUSU provided perspectives that were absent from earlier reports. The decision to rebalance the distribution of campus safety personnel, elevate safety to the level of strategic importance and hire Student Safety Ambassadors to provide additional security came out of these discussions. 

Q. How many recommendations from the Margolis Healy report went into the plan?

A. Margolis Healy provided over 100 recommendations in four main areas: public safety management, oversight, facilities and technology, and Title IX and bias response. CPSO is responsible for public safety management and has already implemented – or will complete implementation this year – of 25 recommendations. Oversight is largely the responsibility of UPSOC. Once their charge is clarified, they will begin adopting the recommendations in their area. Facilities and technology has 33 recommendations, 18 have been implemented or are in process; the rest are resource dependent. Finally, Title IX and bias response have 18 recommendations: five recommendations are already current policy; six are completed; one is dependent on revisions to Title IX; and the final six are being evaluated for implementation.

Q. How many sworn and nonsworn campus police officers do you currently have?

A. PSU currently employs four police officers, a sergeant, and a lieutenant (who also serves as the interim Chief) for a total of six sworn officers. There are four public safety officers, a sergeant, and a lieutenant for a total of six nonsworn officers. PSU also has four campus dispatchers.

Q. How will training differ for the different types of campus safety personnel?

A. Sworn Police Officers: In addition to the state trainings for officer certification, PSU police officers are given six months of field training in PSU-specific areas. That training includes de-escalation techniques, multicultural competency, first aid and CPR, federal reporting mandates such as for the Clery Act and Title IX, etc.

Nonsworn Officers: Non-sworn Campus Public Safety Officers are trained to respond to the many calls for service that do not initially indicate a need for the exercise of sworn police authority at PSU. Non-sworn officers provide the highly visible presence PSU needs given its location in an urban environment. They contribute to community-based policing by facilitating CPSO’s engagement with the community and developing partnerships with individuals, departments and agencies on and off campus.
 
Campus Dispatchers: Campus Police Dispatchers maintain radio contact with all public safety personnel, communicating emergency medical requests, fire alarms activations, reported crimes in progress and livability issues. In addition they take requests for service or information on parking regulations, campus activities, directions to campus buildings and city services, maintenance concerns on the campus and process lost and found items. Dispatchers receive state-mandated training for initial certification, annual update requirements, and much of the same university specific training as other public safety personnel.  

Student Safety Ambassadors: Ambassadors will be trained to serve as a first point of contact and community presence. Their apparel will clearly identify their role and they will NOT engage in campus public safety activity or intervention. Ambassadors will be equipped with radios to report any campus safety incidents or potential for such to the CPSO office. 

Q. How and when can students apply for the student ambassador positions? 

A. UPSOC will work with CPSO to design a recruitment process by November 15, 2019. Students can apply to CPSO to become Safety Ambassadors after November 15.

Q. What is the timeline for rolling out the safety ambassadors program?  

A. The new Student Safety Ambassador program will begin accepting applications after November 15, 2019 followed by selection of recruits and provisions for training. Student Safety Ambassadors will join campus safety operations early in the Winter Term of 2020. 

Q. How will the Student Ambassadors be chosen?

A. CPSO will work with UPSOC to determine the desired characteristics for new hires. Members of the UPSOC search advisory subcommittee and CPSO will screen applicants. The CPSO Chief will make the final hiring decision. 

Q. Do other universities have student safety ambassadors? 

A. Yes. Typically, they augment the campus police force by providing an additional set of “eyes and ears” in the field. We completed an in-depth feasibility study of twenty-one student patrol programs from around the country before deciding to make them an element of this safety plan.

Q. How will students be involved in Campus Public Safety?

A. Ambassadors will serve as a community presence. They will interact with faculty, staff, students and administrators along with community partners, senior adult learners, and others who participate in campus life or use university facilities. Ambassadors will provide general information related to campus operations and will be available to quickly alert campus safety personnel to safety concerns from students, faculty or staff or to emergencies; they will NOT engage in campus public safety activity or intervention. Ambassadors will be equipped with radios to report any incidents or potential for such to the CPSO office. 

Q. What types of calls will unarmed officers respond to? (Examples) Do they take reports?

A. Non-sworn Campus Public Safety Officers respond to the many calls for service that do not initially indicate a need for the exercise of sworn police authority at PSU. Non-sworn officers provide a visible presence while patrolling the campus and are available to assist students, faculty staff and visitors. They provide a first response in rendering aid, referring students to resources, and work closely with the Campus Police in keeping the Portland State University community safe. They patrol college property, make inquiries regarding incidents, gives warnings and citations, detains individuals as necessary and uses limited force when appropriate as defined by policy.

Q. What is the difference in oversight? How will it change?

A. The University Public Safety Oversight Committee will continue to provide oversight. A revised Charter will strengthen and clarify UPSOC’s role. The new Charter will change oversight in the following ways:

  • UPSOC will report directly to the President;
  • UPSOC will have authority to review investigatory and other records as needed to perform its oversight function;
  • UPSOC members will be trained by on and off campus experts on how to exercise police oversight;
  • PSU administrators will be required to respond to UPSOC recommendations and provide an explanation for any that are not implemented; and
  • PSU will ensure transparency by making all UPSOC reports and recommendations – and the University’s response – public on UPSOC’s website. 

Q. How will the new safety plan deal with individuals suffering a mental health crisis on our campus?

A. For our students facing mental health crises, we will continue to offer a range of services, as we have for over a decade. The Chief of Police and the Dean of Student Life will partner to expand the connectivity between CPSO and the C.A.R.E. team. We will also look at other successful models in use on other urban campuses and explore the possibility of cooperative agreements with local partners, including the City of Portland and Oregon Health Sciences University, to provide coordinated care response.


Q. What does building access control mean? Will access to buildings be limited?

A. The majority of our buildings and all of our residence halls have electronic access control. Buildings with access control require a campus identification card to enter during non-business hours.  Where there is limited need for access to a building we have moved to 24/7 access control. For all other buildings, we are working with leadership and building users to create individualized building access plans that balance public access and openness with campus safety. 
 

 

Media Contacts

Kenny Ma

503-725-8789 (office)
954-621-7961 (mobile)

Chris Broderick

503-725-3773 (office)
503-752-6947 (mobile)