Department of Public Safety likely to become police department

The possibility of a police department on campus is becoming more and more likely as the University will make a formal request to the State Board of Higher Education to obtain the authority to create its own police department at a board meeting next Friday, October 7.

“The overarching objective is to develop a police department that is more aligned with the community and more aligned with the students,” Public Safety Chief Doug Tripp said. “A campus police department will improve the quality of campus life by providing law enforcement services that are specifically tailored for the University community.”

Yet the ASUO felt there was a lack of communication with the student body when Senate Bill 405 was originally introduced in January, which was officially signed into law on June 23 and allows the State Board of Higher Education to authorize a university under board control to establish a police department.

“The Executive took a stance against SB405 before it was passed,” Andrew Rogers, ASUO Communications Director, said. “The Executive is mainly concerned with protection of student procedural rights on and off campus. The Executive is also concerned about the historically strained relationship between police officers and traditionally marginalized communities and the lack of consultation between policy makers and these underrepresented communities.”

Now the student community is almost guaranteed to witness the first police department on a university campus in the history of the state. Tripp said he anticipates their request will be approved by the State Board of Higher Education and that they can start the transition to a police department, which is estimated to take about six years.

“During this time, we will have police on campus,” Tripp said about the transitional period.

He said the training that personnel will undergo allows for a minimal amount of police on campus during the first years and a complete staff in year five and six of the transition.

“We anticipate not requiring additional personnel,” Tripp said.

Of the public safety department’s 35 uniformed positions, 26 will become police officers within six years, while the other nine positions will be security personnel.

The Senate bill was carried by Senator Floyd Prozanski, who represents South Lane and North Douglas counties, the district the University falls under.

“This allows universities to provide policing and security necessary for their population,” Prozanski said. “It will permit the department and its offices to enforce not only criminal laws that are on the books in Oregon, but also any board of higher education or university administrative rules.”

The bill gives the State Board of Higher Education the control to, at the request of an Oregon public university, “authorize the university to establish a police department and commission one or more employees as police officers. A police department established under this section has all the authority and immunity of a municipal police department of this state.”

The University of Oregon is the first to request the establishment of a police department on a university campus.

“The primary advantage of a campus police department is that it is positioned to provide dedicated and responsive police services to the University community, reducing response times and prioritizing crimes that are important to those it serves,” Tripp said. “University police departments are culturally aligned and accountable to their constituency, which includes faculty, staff and students.”

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