PSU students, faculty reignite nationwide effort to disarm campus police
Portland State University students want to disarm campus police, joining a nationwide student movement to ban officers from carrying.
Members of the Portland State University student union sat in on a board of trustees meeting Thursday, urging them to disarm campus police officers. The controversy comes almost a year after campus police fatally shot 45-year-old Jason Washington after Washington reached for a gun that had fallen from his holster during his attempt to break up a fight, the Portland Mercury reported.
A Multnomah County grand jury determined the officers did not commit any legal wrongdoing under the law, but PSU hired a security firm to study its campus safety policies and recommend changes. The firm, Margolis Healy, compiled a 209-page report, finding that 52 percent of PSU students and faculty believe campus police should not be allowed to carry.
The report criticized PSU's campus safety protocol but ultimately did not recommend disarming the school’s ten sworn officers.
But students who attended the Thursday board meeting held signs that read “#DisarmPSU” and “#JusticeForJason.”
“Police with guns are a ticking time bomb,” student Olivia Pace said at the meeting, according to KGW8.
The PSU administration is putting off a potential decision on the matter until fall 2019.
In February 2019, Portland Rep. Diego Hernandez introduced a bill that would disarm all campus police officers at both PSU and the University of Oregon. The state bill, however, stalled in committee.
"Sound policy has to come from and center the communities impacted," Hernandez said. “It’s time we listen to students.”
Student movements to disarm campus police have taken place around the country. As previously reported by Campus Reform, the University of California, Santa Barbara student government passed a resolution in 2019 to disarm its campus police officers. The resolution warned of police carrying their “lethal and military-grade hardware.”
UCSB resolution sponsor Ivana Cruz claimed that armed police put students in “perpetual fear and tension,” harm their mental health, and negatively affects students’ “ability to function.”
Campus Reform also previously reported on a similar movement at Yale University, which came after police shot a woman tied to an armed robbery attempt.
“Armed campus police are a risk to the students they are sworn to protect and to the communities in which schools reside,” Yale students declared in a school-wide petition. “Armed campus police are a risk to the students they are sworn to protect and to the communities in which schools reside.”
The same Yale petitioners that wanted to prohibit campus police from carrying also called for the university to donate to Black Lives Matter.
In February, the Massachusetts College of Art and Design Board of Trustees voted 8-2 to keep the campus police force unarmed. The Massachusetts college made the decision after students and the community created a petition demanding that police stay unarmed.
MassArt graduate Brianna Florio voiced concerns with the board’s decision, referring to unarmed campus police as “walking targets in uniform,” according to Breitbart News.
“Think for a minute about what would happen if we had an active shooter,” Florio said. “Our cops would be our frontline, and it would be a bloodbath. Everyone would die.”
Despite concerns raised by the school’s alumni and the police force itself, the president of the college said that “it is not only unnecessary but unwise to change our current policy. To be clear, our current policy is that officers remain unarmed — and that remains my position today.”
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