With over 33 years of professional experience, Jay Weitman has landed at Lewis & Clark as the new director of Campus Safety. An LC alum, Weitman graduated with his Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1995 after transferring from Portland Community College as a junior.
“I was volunteering with Clackamas County Sheriff’s department when I was first introduced to the college campus as a law enforcement explorer (today known as cadets) for the Sheriff’s Office,” Weitman said. “I came to help out at a football game.”
Weitman volunteered at LC on and off for a few months and was eventually given the opportunity to work for Campus Safety.
“I was 19 years old. And I just loved it here, felt right at home, born and raised in Portland. And then they said we have availability for you to have a temporary part-time job with Campus Safety so I did that for a few months. And then a few months down the road, they had an opening for the first regular job full time,” Weitman said.
Campus life looked very different before the Cleary Act of 1990, which required that “colleges and universities to report campus crime data, support victims of violence, and publicly outline the policies and procedures they have put into place to improve campus safety,” the Clery act states. Weitman worked as a Campus Safety officer right after the implementation of the act and was able to see the progression and increase of on-campus security and transparency.
Before the act was passed, upperclassmen were permitted to throw parties or “keggers,” as Weitman identified them, in spaces such as Hartzfeld Residence Hall for groups of students 21 and older.
“I experienced the implementation of the Clery Act and a whole you know, 180-degree flip. We went from a real kind of crazy party campus where anything goes, to a dry campus,” Weitman said.
During his time as both a student and campus safety worker, Weitman got a very well-rounded experience of LC culture and an understanding of the social politics and student-on-student interaction which most safety officers do not.
“My first full-time job as a police officer was a reserved Deputy Sheriff when I turned 21, while I was still working here,” Weitman said. So I was doing that as a volunteer, part time. I was getting some shifts for parks patrol in the summer, to cover vacation shifts as the courthouse security, for instance. So I was learning about law enforcement while I was learning about college security and college safety, all at the same time.”
After he graduated, Weitman took a job at the West Linn Police Department in 1997, where he spent the following six years, studying the ins and outs of police work and leadership.
“And then I transferred to [Lake Oswego Police Department] where I spent the last 20 years there, became a sergeant about a year after I started there, most of that most of my time was as a supervisor,” Weitman said.
The past few years leading up to Weitman’s retirement from the Police Department were spent working alongside school administrations in and around Lake Oswego. Weitman was a part of an effort to create consistent communication between school administrators and law enforcement.This was to find out the most efficient and effective ways to keep students safe.
“I was always really good about maintaining relationships with our school partners, and the administration and the staff faculty in the School District. Having the opportunity to work with the School Resource Officers (SROs) as their supervisor really solidified that and my focus on building community relations and remember, I’m doing this while we’re going through the pandemic and then they’re coming back to school while there’s a big, anti-SRO movement now nationwide,” Weitman said.
The upsurge of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 and 2021 highlighted the anti-SRO sentiment, thorough.i claims that SROs only exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline and the training required has been inadequate so far. According to research from the University at Albany in New York, SROs have been effective in reducing some violence present in schools but have not been as successful in gun-related incidents and “increase the number of expulsions, police referral and the arrest of students,” authors of The Thin Blue Line in Schools: New Evidence on School-Based Policing Across the U.S, wrote.
Weitman’s experience of involving law enforcement with the SRO teams at schools around Portland has been positive. Keeping open communication in the forms of listening sessions between the city council and school board in order to keep the SRO programs relevant, yet under a careful eye, Weitman knew the importance of making sure the appropriate treatment and follow-through.
The LC Statement of Values states that “we value accountability, cooperation, excellence, human life, integrity, laws and the constitution, problem-solving, ourselves, respect, and service.”
“You know, we’re not just there to arrest kids and take them to jail. We’re there to work with them to get the education they need to to make the right decisions in the future and be productive. So I learned a lot about all those different approaches that were an alternative to the justice system,” Weitman said.
Weitman is excited to bring much of what he learned during his time at the Police Department back to LC in terms of strengthening communication.
“It has a lot to do with community relations, how do police officers build trust in the community, and build relationships so that folks see that it’s not us versus them? We’re part of that community,” Weitman said. “We’re empowered by you because you trust us to appropriately and fairly, apply the law and have discretion and be reasonable, be the most reasonable person in the room.”
Part of that is understanding the history of police and why people don’t trust the police and law enforcement.
“Communities of marginalized people, like Black communities are going to have a lot more historically negative experiences. And they’re going to see campus safety and they’re going to project those attitudes, those preconceived notions on my staff, so I want to make sure [my staff] understands that and treats the community accordingly,” Weitman said. “Stop and listen. Don’t talk so much, don’t lecture. Listen, treat folks with respect, like how you would want your kids to be treated.”
Weitman is excited to bring all of his knowledge and experience back to LC and is passionate about working alongside the administration, Facilities and Campus Living in order to bring more transparency and communication through all levels of the college.
“The most exciting thing I’m looking forward to is this incoming class graduating. And having four more years of new classes coming in and having the opportunity to build relationships with each class. By the time we get to that point, I can step back and feel like I’ve made a big difference,” Weitman said.