State officials may arm Oregon University police for first time in school’s history
State officials may soon give police officers at Oregon University (OU) permission to carry firearms for the first time in the school’s 137-year history.
The unarmed officers, currently responsible for the safety of over 24,000 students on the 295-acre campus, rely on Eugene City Police Department officers to diffuse potentially dangerous situations.
The decision, which is set to come down from the State Board of Higher Education on June 21, however, would allow members of the Oregon University Police Department (OUPD) to carry Glock G4s that have already been purchased as part of a plan to arm to the department.
A state official, as well as a spokesperson for the OUPD, told Campus Reform on Monday that the move would give the officers who are most familiar with the campus the tools they need to provide security.
“We could be doing a lot more on campus than we are now,” said Kelly Mciver, communications director and public information officer for OU. “In a worst case scenario precious minutes would certainly be saved if we had our own officers who are most familiar with the campus respond.”
McIver said he, and other OU officers, monitored a situation that transpired at the University of Rhode Island earlier this year, in which unarmed campus police were the first to respond to a shooting scare, due to similar state policy barring the officers from carrying firearms.
Director of Communications for the Oregon University System Diane Saunders said Monday that the Oregon Board of Higher Education was set to arm police officers several years ago but decided to create a waiting period because of a disagreement over whether or not students were in favor of the change.
Since then, the OUPD has engaged in an extensive public relations campaign to help students understand the purpose of arming officers, McGiver said.
“In a campus environment not everyone is going to be in favor of something like this,” said McGiver. “Some people have philosophical opposition to the existence of firearms. We are not out to change their minds or opinions but to help people understand the goal of policing.”
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