Fewer EPD officers to patrol campus

The number of Eugene police on campus will fall, and the number of Department of Public Safety officers will increase this year because of changes to the University’s contract with the Eugene Police Department.

DPS officers are seeking additional citation authority to address campus-related issues more directly.

Until June 30, the University was policed by a full patrol team — three officers and one sergeant — but under the changes to the contract, there will be only one officer assigned to the University campus, explained EPD Sgt. Rich Stronach.

That officer’s primary mission will not even be on campus, DPS Director Doug Tripp wrote in an e-mail. Instead, the officer will chiefly police the area surrounding the University.

In place of the EPD patrol team, the University will restructure the Department of Public Safety on campus. This includes hiring several new DPS officers — DPS Deputy Director Carolyn McDermed said the department wants to hire 40 more — who will help structure a new Safety Campus Team at the University, which Tripp said in an e-mail will concern itself largely with crime prevention.

Tripp said he believes restructuring the police contract will allow the University to “develop a campus safety strategy that is more accountable to the University community.”

Many other public universities do not contract with external police services, and the University of Oregon aspires to “align its campus safety programming with those standards recognized as best practices on the national landscape,” Tripp said.

“Campus law enforcement agencies operate under a paradigm in which they are directly accountable to the community in which they serve,” he said. “This accountability ensures that campus police services are fully integrated and responsive to the unique culture of the
University community.”

While DPS is equipped to handle the most common crimes on campus, such as property crimes, there are certain restrictions that prevent DPS officers from issuing citations for certain misdemeanor offenses. Currently, DPS officers can write municipal citations for violations of the Eugene Municipal Code, including ones for minor in possession, urinating in public and possession of amounts of marijuana less than one ounce.

In addition, according to state law, DPS officers are only permitted to stop and frisk individuals and make probable cause arrests. Officers also carry pepper spray and batons.However, DPS officers do not have the power to hand out municipal or circuit court citations. If an issue beyond its citation authority arises, DPS must hold the person until police can arrive.

“With the ability to cite (violators) ourselves, it will keep EPD on the streets and we will be able to get the person off campus more quickly,” McDermed explained.

The University is pushing for the Eugene City Council to “amend the ordinance to allow DPS the authority to cite into the Eugene Municipal Court for certain crimes,” Stronach explained. Some of these types of crimes include misdemeanor offenses such as
trespassing, theft, vandalism, and criminal mischief.

“DPS is taking on some of the workload that is not necessary for (EPD officers) and will relieve them to do other things,” McDermed said.

Some protocol will not change, however. University spokespersons said the changes would not give DPS the authority to carry guns or Tasers.

Tripp said, too, that “EPD will continue to respond to calls for service as they would for any other contingency within the greater community.”

Those in DPS encouraged student involvement in the proposed changes. ASUO leadership has been involved in the process. The public comment section regarding extended citation authority for DPS officers will be held on Monday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m. at Eugene City Hall. Students are encouraged to attend.

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