Reimagining Campus Public Safety
August 13, 2020
Dear Campus Community:
The question of how best to keep Portland State University safe has challenged us for years. The continuing tragedies across our country demonstrate the disproportionate impacts and unacceptable loss of life that policing has on Black people and people of color.
Over the past few weeks, we have listened to many voices across our campus. The calls for change that we are hearing at PSU are ringing out across our nation. We must find a new way to protect the safety of our community, one that works to dismantle systemic racism and promotes the dignity of all who come to our urban campus.
Today we are making two important announcements in our effort to realize these critical goals.
CPSO to patrol without firearms
Chief Willie Halliburton and the members of our Campus Public Safety Office are making the decision to patrol campus without carrying firearms. They will continue to be sworn officers, with investigative and arrest capabilities. We are grateful for the groundbreaking commitment from our campus public safety partners, as it allows us to look beyond the question of guns and to reimagine how best to address the complete continuum of safety on our campus. We also wish to recognize and appreciate these members of our campus family for their dedicated service and commitment to the well-being of PSU.
President, Board to create Reimagine Campus Safety Committee
As we continue to mourn the death of Jason Washington and accept the charge to work actively and intentionally to dismantle systemic racism, we announce the creation of the Reimagine Campus Safety Committee. The committee’s work will be guided by our commitment to providing a campus environment that is free of racism, celebrates the diversity of our community, and honors our dedication to human dignity. The committee will assess how to keep our campus safe without relying on officers carrying firearms. The committee also will be asked to provide innovative solutions to an array of safety and security needs, including providing basic security and assisting those who are in crisis.
Committee to make recommendations this fall
Between now and the end of the fall term, we are asking the committee to take advantage of the intellect and ingenuity of our campus and community to develop actionable measures that align our commitment to equity and humanity with our approach to campus safety. Recognizing the urgency of this work, the university will provide the necessary resources to support the efforts of the committee.
The steering team leading this work will include:
- Dean Jose Coll, School of Social Work
- Ed Washington, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement, Global Diversity & Inclusion
- Vicki Reitenauer, Faculty, Women, Gender and Sexuality Program, and incoming Chair of Faculty Senate
- Motutama Sipelii, President, Associated Students of Portland State University
Working with campus leadership, governance groups, and others, the steering team will select committee members that reflect the racial, ethnic and ideological diversity of our institution.
Our community’s safety has always been a shared responsibility, and we continue to have great confidence in the students, faculty and staff of PSU. Together, we can imagine a system of safety that relies on new ideas and different personnel and embraces our values. As we move forward, you can follow our progress, share your views, and find ways to participate on the new Reimagine Campus Safety webpage.
Chief Halliburton explains more about why our campus public safety officers will be patrolling without firearms in the following video.
Chair, PSU Board of Trustees
The President and Board of Trustees wants to hear your ideas for making PSU a safer campus. Please make a comment below.
1. Why create another committee at PSU? Haven’t we done this before?
Several committees have reviewed campus safety at PSU. The Reimagine Campus Safety Committee will approach this work in a new way and at a different moment. The work will be centered around our commitment to equity and include an examination of the impact of campus safety policies on our Black community. It will ask the difficult questions about how to keep our campus safe without firearms. It will also develop innovative new ways of addressing the needs of those experiencing crises on our campus.
2. Who will be on the committee?
The makeup of the full committee will be determined in the coming weeks. It will be led by the steering committee members which includes: Dr. Jose Coll, Dean of the School of Social Work; Ed Washington, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement, Global Diversity & Inclusion; Motutama Sipelii, ASPSU president; and Vicki Reitenauer, Assistant Professor, Women, Gender and Sexuality Program and incoming Chair of Faculty Senate.
3. Why has Campus Public Safety decided to make the change to non-armed campus patrols by officers at this time?
Chief Willie Halliburton and the officers reached this decision after conversations with the campus community. Officers want to begin the healing process of our community and the Public Safety Office. CPSO acknowledges that some individuals on our campus have had negative experiences in their past encounters with law enforcement in their communities. CPSO feels those past experiences should not be a barrier to working together on the holistic plan for Campus Public Safety. The move to a non-armed campus patrol is an important step forward for Portland State to work toward a new approach to campus safety that addresses the issues of systematic racism and promotes the dignity of all who come to campus.
4. Will PSU Campus Police Officers carry firearms?
No. Portland State University Police Officers will not carry firearms while on patrol. Officers will be authorized to carry less-than-lethal devices such as Tasers. Campus Safety Officers and Student Safety Ambassadors have never carried weapons and will continue to be unarmed.
5. When will PSU campus stop carrying firearms on patrol?
We are still working on the transition to patrols without firearms but anticipate this will be accomplished before or during October this year.
6. Will PSU Campus Police Officers have access to firearms?
Yes. Firearms will be secured at the Office of Campus Public Safety and sworn PSU Campus Police Officers will be able to retrieve them in very limited instances, such as the presence of an active shooter on campus. A formal policy is currently being developed and will be reviewed by the University Public Safety Oversight Committee.
7. Will PSU still have certified police officers?
Yes. Campus police officers will be fully certified by the State of Oregon and required to maintain all necessary certifications and ongoing training.
8. Who should I call if I have an emergency?
Call 9-911 if you are on campus. Campus Public Safety Office is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
9. How can I learn more about the activities of public safety and the frequency of safety activities on the PSU campus? Do we track reports of weapons on campus?
Universities are required to file annual reports required by the Clery Act. The reports are intended to inform the PSU community of the extent of reported crimes occurring in the previous calendar year. The report includes information about reported weapons on campus (which have averaged approximately two incidents per month). Additionally, Campus Public Safety Office keeps a detailed activity log that is available for public viewing. More information, including statistics on the frequency of specific offenses can be found in CPSO's Annual Report.
10. How will the Campus Public Safety Office work with the Portland Police Bureau?
PSU will partner with Portland Police Bureau to respond to high risk calls. The university is working with PPB to develop the necessary memorandums of understanding.
11. Will the committee consider formally disarming campus security officers?
Yes. A spectrum of changes will be under consideration as part of the process of Reimagining Campus Safety, including disarming officers. CPSO has voluntarily decided to begin patrolling without firearms.
12. What is the oversight structure for Campus Public Safety?
The University Public Safety Oversight Committee (UPSOC) is a representative group of faculty, staff and students charged by the PSU Board of Trustees with providing oversight, counsel and advice to PSU’s Campus Public Safety leadership in order to improve campus safety. This group will continue to provide oversight of Campus Public Safety during the Reimagining process.