Only 10 students show at forum to discuss arming University of Oregon Police Department

The University of Oregon’s newly formed police force just turned one year old, but campus stakeholders aren’t throwing a birthday party. The question of whether or not to have an armed police force on campus has dogged students, faculty, staff and community members for the past several years and could likely be decided by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education this spring.

University community members met for a second forum Tuesday evening to continue the discussion around UOPD carrying handguns where the community had the opportunity to ask questions of interim Chief Carolyn McDermed and Police Captain Pete Deshpande. While some questioned how arming their force would affect response times and procedure for potentially dangerous situations or whether or not officers would be required to take cultural competency training to prevent firearm misuse — others questioned the lack of students at the forum. @@names [email protected]@

Michael Connelly, an instructor in the department of academic extension, said that he was worried the student voice wasn’t being heard in the longer discussion surrounding arming UOPD. @@*[email protected]@

“The students need to be empowered to have a voice in whether they want this, so we understand the people who we serve, what they really want,” Connelly said. “We need to allow students have their voice be heard and respect it no matter what our own feelings about it are.”

Despite the concern by faculty and staff to hear the student sentiment, there were only a handful of students at the forum, no more than 10 at one point. While many offered good dialogue for the officers and administration to consider, the lack of student involvement could be interpreted as a lack of interest.

ASUO Vice President Nick McCain, who was attendance Tuesday, said that the ASUO has the power to put forth another referendum to find a clear student consensus one way or the other.

“Senate does have the ability to put referendum forward with two-thirds majority vote,” McCain said. “We’re going to look into it and I’m one of the members that sits on the advisory committee so if that is something the students are looking to do, its my job to represent students, we can put it on the ballot.”

President Michael Gottfredson — who was in the audience but did not make a statement one way or the other — will be making a recommendation to the state board this spring before they vote and final action is taken.

McDermed, Deshpande and Vice President for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt all advocated for UOPD to carry guns citing statistics which show how unsafe it is for a police officer to do even the most routine duties including making traffic stops, transporting suspects and investigating crimes off-campus. @@*[email protected]@

“Police carry guns for three main reasons,” Deshpande said. “For deterrence as a last resort, unknown risk factors and to protect life.”

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Sam Stites

Sam Stites