As the University of Oregon Police Department reduces its number of armed officers, unarmed community service officers will take their place with expanded roles around campus, according to a campus-wide email Nov. 9 from UO President Michael Schill that listed new reforms to UOPD.
UOPD Chief Matt Carmichael said that the department will hire nine new CSOs. The extension of their roles includes posted positions around campus, 24/7 response from CSOs and taking over the jobs previously held by armed officers of patrolling campus buildings used primarily by students.
“I look at this as a pathway to service. I'm your chief. I'm responsible for ensuring every student has fair and equitable access to the police department,” Carmichael said.
Another change set out in Schill’s email was the uniforms that CSOs will wear. Previously, CSOs that worked for UOPD wore a brown version of the officers’ uniform. The updated uniforms will consist of a polo shirt and khaki pants.
Different communities have had different responses to the new CSOs, according to Carmichael. Many of the questions about CSOs revolved around how they would operate differently than a typical police officer.
UOPD released two officers due to complaints in 2019, according to records acquired by the Daily Emerald. In an incident on April 9, 2019, a student was placed in handcuffs and placed in a squad car after an alleged traffic violation — an interaction the student categorized as questionable that led to the officer’s release. The second incident occurred May 8, 2019, when an officer tackled a bicyclist carrying a sheathed knife after he was issued a traffic citation — an investigation found this use of force to be excessive, and UOPD terminated the officer involved.
CSOs will be in communication with UOPD officers over the radio during their patrols, however they will not report to them, according to Carmichael.
“They may assist officers in the field but again, they don’t report to police officers,” Carmichael said. “I want to be very clear about this.”
CSOs will be managed by Executive Director of Security Benjamin McNulty, as their division falls under security services, according to Carmichael.
“As we hire our CSOs, we will do so with a goal of increasing diversity within UOPD and in accordance with our campus values of diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Schill said in the letter.
Carmichael also said that hiring new CSOs would be a step toward further diversifying the department. ASUO Press Secretary Sam Simonett agreed that the hiring of CSOs and reduction of armed positions at UOPD by 26% is a step in the right direction.
“The goal of this was to diversify, create equity and inclusion,” Simonett said. We think it opens the door to further reform and further conversation with administration.”
But Schill and Carmichael have stated their opposition to disarming the police. In previous interviews, Schill had said that he did not think he would ever hear an argument that convinces him to completely disarm UOPD.
“I'm not an advocate of disarming police officers, I've been very clear about this, but I am an advocate for serving our students,” Carmichael said.