Portland State University (PSU) recently announced its comprehensive safety plan which includes changes in staffing and the introduction of 10 student safety ambassadors. Also within the plan, 10 unarmed safety officers will now respond to calls that deal with nonviolent incidents like safety escorts. Other officers will still be armed on campus. After this change, PSU will have 10 armed officers, 10 unarmed officers and 10 student safety ambassadors.
In 2013, Wim Wiewel, the current president of Lewis & Clark and former president of PSU, developed a task force to work on improving campus safety. According to the PSU website, the task force ultimately recommended that the campus require safety officers to be armed. This decision was approved at a PSU Board of Trustees meeting in 2014.
“The decision by the board to authorize armed police officers was the culmination of an 18-month process that started in Spring 2013 when President Wim Wiewel established the President’s Task Force on Campus Safety,” PSU’s website said.
According to the 2013 report detailing the findings of the task force, “Unarmed Campus Public Security Officers frequently come in contact with violent career criminals and make considerable arrests of offenders not affiliated with the university.”
Last June, 45-year-old Jason Washington, an unarmed black man, was killed after being shot nine times by a PSU campus safety officer. This event resulted in protests by students, activists and community members alike, asking for the removal of armed officers at PSU.
The new safety plan was announced on Oct. 10 at a PSU Board of Trustees meeting. According to KPTV’s website, the announcement was met with protest from students in the audience.
“During a Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, there was visible disappointment from students in attendance regarding the armed officers,” the KPTV website said. “Some students held up signs supporting the disarming of campus officers, as well as ‘Remember Jason Washington’ signs.”
The location of PSU is often referred to when justifying the implementation of armed officers. In addition to PSU having a much larger student population than LC, its downtown location increases the likelihood of crimes occurring on campus. In comparison, according to the LC website, there are currently 15 Campus Safety staff members, including the director, on the LC campus, none of which are armed.