UO to ask Oregon State Board of Higher Education for permission to arm UOPD
After years of debate, the University of Oregon has decided to move forward with the decision to arm its campus police officers. As per an announcement released this morning, the UO has submitted a docket item to the Oregon University System, requesting permission from the Oregon State Board of Higher Education.
According to Phil Weiler, vice president of strategic communications, when the UO was granted the authority to switch from an on campus public safety department to a full-fledged police force in 2011, it was agreed the decision to arm UOPD would be deliberated if and when it became necessary for the security of the UO. According to officials, that time has come.
“(UO President Michael Gottfredson) has made the decision that he does want to go to the State Board of Higher Education and seek that authority,” he said.”The decision’s been made. That’s the direction we’re moving in.”
The general sentiment of University officials in requesting an armed police force, Weiler says, is to improve the ability of UOPD to respond quickly and effectively to on-campus disturbances. Currently, when a potentially dangerous situation presents itself, a car stop or domestic disturbance for example, UOPD must wait for backup from the armed Eugene Police Department before they can respond. In addition, upon apprehension of a potentially dangerous suspect UOPD must call upon EPD to transport the criminal to the Lane County jail — unable to do it themselves for lack of proper equipment.
With an ever-increasing workload demanded of EPD, the UO has decided to move down the path of self-sufficiency in an effort to increase campus safety.
“There are lots of situations that occur routinely where we cannot get involved and resolve the situation,” Weiler said. “We want to be able to provide a full range of services to the UO community.”
Although the idea of having armed officers on campus may seem controversial, Weiler reminds students that they are nothing new. Two years ago, under the protection of the UO Department of Public Safety armed officers were contracted from EPD for campus patrol.
“I would remind people that we have always had armed officers on campus except for this last two year period,” he said. “It’s not an unusual situation.”
Sam Dotters-Katz, ASUO president for the upcoming school year, personally supports the UO’s decision.
“While student opinion on the issue remains divided, I support the arming of UOPD,” Dotters-Katz said. “I believe they remain very committed to developing extensive on-going cultural competency trainings and incorporating student feedback and participation in the process moving forward.”
The proposal to arm UOPD will be discussed at the June 21 board meeting in Portland, Ore. Should it be approved, the UO will begin further deliberations as to the best way to implement the projected changes.
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