A packed meeting room in the Oregon State Capitol played host to friends and foes of Senate Bill 405, the proposed statute that would authorize the creation of a University police force, as the House Judiciary Committee held public testimony on the bill Tuesday.
Among the first to testify was Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), who shepherded the bill through the Senate, where it was approved last month. Prozanski was joined in the by Department of Public Safety Chief Doug Tripp and Frances Dyke, University vice president of finance and administration, who acknowledged Prozanski’s leadership on the issue. @@Floyd Prozanski: http://www.leg.state.or.us/prozanski/@@ @@Doug Tripp: http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=staff&d=person&b=name&s=tripp@@
Dyke said the costs of implementation would be “relatively minimal” — about $66,000 — and stressed that more than 80 percent of citations issued by DPS for misdemeanor crimes are issued to people who are not students.
Tripp explained the issues surrounding the current quasi-police status of DPS.
“Currently, our officers are not certified,” Tripp said. “They meet no state standards.”
Other supporters included Pete Kerns, Eugene Police Department chief, who explained that a University police force would be able to help combat Eugene’s high level of property crime, which he said was one of the highest in the nation and centralized in residential areas next to the University. @@Pete Kerns: http://www.eugene-or.gov/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=273&PageID=3997&cached=true&mode=2&userID=2@@
A number of those who testified in support of the bill were students.
University senior Hannah Dischinger told the committee that University police officers would command more respect from the student body than current public safety officers. @@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Hannah+Dischinger@@
Michael Weber, a University student and resident assistant with University Housing, said though DPS has been helpful in maintaining the security of students housed on campus, a sworn force would be better. @@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=michael+weber@@
“I think we need to take another step,” Weber said.
But not every student in attendance was excited about the bill.
ASUO President Amelie Rousseau appeared with other ASUO representatives to testify against the bill. Rousseau questioned the wisdom of the expenses associated with the transition to a police force and cited the 78 percent vote against a University police force in this year’s ASUO elections. @@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Amelie+Rousseau+@@
“Even though the University is able to cover the next biennium with reserves, it doesn’t mean that our tuition and taxpayers aren’t going to be facing the brunt of this 10 years from now,” Rousseau said after the hearing concluded.
ASUO Sen. Manny Garcia testified that, “This bill has been introduced many times in different forms and students have consistently opposed it.” @@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Manny+Garcia@@
Committee members comments were sparse, with the exception of Rep. Michael Schaufler (D-Happy Valley), who asked, “Why is this taking so long?”@@http://www.leg.state.or.us/schaufler/@@
After the hearing concluded, Dischinger explained her reasons for appearing.
“I think it’s really important that the House committee knows that though a lot of students do oppose it, a lot of students also support it,” Dischinger said.
Weber also clarified his reasons for supporting the bill.
“This really focuses on the issue of safety: It’s not about, ‘Who is allowed to bring guns?’ It’s about, ‘How can we best serve our students?’” Weber said.