CrimeNews

University of Oregon DPS plans for potential transition to police force



As Senate Bill 405 winds its way toward becoming law, the University Department of Public Safety has begun making plans for its potential implementation. @@http://gov.oregonlive.com/bill/2011/SB405/@@

DPS Chief Doug Tripp said that if the legislation is approved and the decision is made to proceed with forming a campus police department, the request to do so would be submitted by the University administration to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. @@http://www.dailyemerald.com/2011/05/10/university-students-testify-for-against-campus-policing-initiative-at-state-capitol/@@

Tripp stressed the importance of campus engagement at this stage of the process.

“We have to engage our community in discussion as this is moving forward,” Tripp said.

This would occur through the use of community forms that would include input from University administration and public safety officials with the goal of assessing the suitability of a police department to the University environment.

If there is community support for that model of organization, the first police officers would start appearing within a few months. Tripp said there are currently “five or six” public safety officers who have held certification as sworn law enforcement officers in the past five years. These officers would be eligible to take a two-week refresher course through the state Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, instead of the full-length basic police academy. @@http://www.oregon.gov/DPSST/index.shtml@@

Tripp said these officers would go through that refresher course as quickly as possible and would begin police duties on campus within a few months.

Other current DPS officers would move through the full-length academy at the rate of four per year. This could also be supplemented by outside hires if positions are vacant, Tripp said.

After the basic police academy, Tripp described the additional field training that officers will receive once they arrive at the University. This training, which lasts from 12 to 16 weeks depending on the officer’s background, will educate officers to the unique challenges of policing in a campus setting.

“It is intended to educate new officers to the University environment as opposed to what they learned at the academy,” Tripp said.

As more police officers appear on campus, police officers and lower-level security officers would replace the current public safety job description. These new security officers would wield significantly less authority than current DPS personnel.

Other than officer certification, there are a few other modifications DPS would need to make to begin full police duties. Most of the required equipment and infrastructure is already in place, though there would be some changes to existing procedures and doctrines to incorporate the department’s new status.

“Essentially we could operate as a police department now if we had the statutory authority to do so,” Tripp explained.

The transition from DPS to full police force is scheduled to take six years and is expected to have a fiscal impact of $138,035 over those six years, according to documents released by DPS. Tripp said this process may take longer or fewer than six years.

“There will likely be bumps in the road, as there will also be some moments where the road is flat,” Tripp said.

Some campus figures already harbor concerns about the transition.

ASUO President Amelie Rousseau, who has expressed opposition to the formation of a campus police force, said she was concerned about the lack of financial information provided by the department about the costs of implementation. Rousseau worries the transition costs will be passed on to students.

“We haven’t seen any kind of spreadsheet or financial plan,” Rousseau said. “We haven’t seen any real appraisal.”

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