Saldana: DPS debate has gotten muddled, uncertain

The University’s Department of Public Safety got the go-ahead from the State Board of Higher Education Friday to begin the transition toward becoming a sworn police force — a move hailed as a sign of progress by University administration but rebuffed by pretty much everyone else. Perhaps there is no other topic on campus as divisive as this one, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

The arguments for and against are more numerous than can be afforded in such a limited space, not to mention they’ve been discussed ad nauseum in various forums by a multitude of individuals with differing opinions. Yet at an impasse we remain.

Last spring, I was asked to speak at the State of Oregon Senate hearing regarding SB 405 — originally in favor for it. At the time I thought, why not? It makes sense to have actual police officers if they are charged with protecting [email protected]@What is the debate really about, considering Monday’s paper stated that they will not be carrying guns or tasers@@. It also didn’t hurt having someone there who was close to the situation to help shape my [email protected]@Who was this person?@@. Fortunately, the counter-arguments began to hold some weight: Why spend further money on non-academics when already so much is going to areas outside the [email protected]@Why does it have to be a matter of money? What of the ethics involved?@@? Can the current staff be trained and held to the highest standards that come with being a law enforcement officer?

I declined speaking for either side that day, as I felt I was too torn on the issue to decisively sway one way or the [email protected]@Do you really need to do that?@@. Those that are against SB 405 remain so — as well as those in favor. And it hasn’t done anybody any favors that a segment of people on campus, like myself, are remaining on the fence about the entire issue. Both sides have failed to reach out to those left unsure and explain in great detail why they are for or against DPS being sworn in as officers.

Again, last spring, I wrote to this very paper about a certain justification used by current pro-DPS individuals in regards to their argument: That in case of an active shooter, it would be best if there were actual police officers. Then I said it didn’t matter for such a scenario due to the slow response time by Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs). I still hold that to be true, and thus such an argument continues to do nothing to sway me to their cause.

Furthermore, DPS and University administration need to display accountability in order to prove that money is no issue. But conversely, harping on spending that in essence is being used to protect not only the officers on duty, but also the students and faculty at large hurts the “anti” argument — especially considering how much money is spent by the truckload in other non-academic areas. Shouldn’t that money come out of those other non-essential areas? Yet it is also disingenuous to make comparisons to other schools in the Association of American Universities and their handling of a police force with that of Oregon’s when the finances between such schools are drastically different.

It’s clear that one side is making progress towards their goal given Friday’s decision, but are they making that progress off sound arguments and reason? At the same time, those in opposition have not done enough to flesh out their reasoning for why DPS officers shouldn’t be sworn [email protected]@Really? Maybe they aren’t being listened to? Or in places where their decisions matter@@. Both sides appeal to their base without any consideration for those who remain skeptical and uncertain.

With the transition to take place over a period of six years, it’s clear that without some dramatic change, the two sides involved in this mess will have plenty of time to either make it better or worse. But at this rate, any victory for either side appears to be a Pyrrhic [email protected]@http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/297150.html@@.


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