We’ve been getting a lot of media requests to address the latest PR stunt by Portland State University in announcing for the THIRD time that they are going to have unarmed patrols by some near future date (Fall, Winter, and now September 1st). The media has made this into headlines that PSU will fully disarm by September 1st (see KGW, OPB, Oregonian, Willamette Week). This is false.
To be clear:
PSU WILL NOT BE FULLY UNARMED. President Percy and Chief Halliburton are only referring to a small number of patrol officers who will PATROL without arms.
CPSO WILL STILL BE FULLY ARMED. CPSO will continue to have access to their full arsenal of weapons.
Finally, we would like to encourage the media to dig deeper into this issue and ask President Percy and Chief Halliburton 1) why the University Public Safety Oversight Committee (UPSOC) committee members have signed non-disclosure agreements [who are these NDAs with PSU, PPB], 2) who actually has the authority to disarm CPSO, 3) what are the financial implications of continued arming of CPSO [how much money has PSU spent on defending the arming of CPSO through outside consultants, committees, legal settlements, etc]; and 4) when will they honor their commitment to the Washington family in establishing a scholarship and art installment in memory of Jason Washington?
While the UCR Task Force Report acknowledges that “systemic racism exists in U.S. society and in policing, and must be eliminated wherever possible,” its nine recommendations fail to challenge the fundamental centrality of police power to the university’s infrastructure and everyday operations. At first glance, the Task Force appears to advocate a modest downscaling of the UCRPD’s campus presence. Upon further analysis, however, its proposals cultivate an expansion of police power through the deputization of campus staff and administrators to act as civilian surrogates of the police department. Perhaps most revealingly, campus employees in specific units (including Student Affairs, Human Resources, and the Title IX office) are expected “to pair and cross-train [with] public safety personnel [e.g. UCRPD officers].” The Report does not bother to elaborate on the substance of such “pairing and cross-training” other than to indicate that select staff and administrators will be expected to build collegial relationships with the UCRPD that, by extension, further legitimize and extend the reach of campus police power by institutionalizing what amounts to a civilian/employee shadow police force.
Alliance High School at Meek students made this film after returning to school in the fall of 2018. Over the summer, one of our teachers, Andre Washington, suffered a tragedy when his brother, Jason, was shot and killed by Portland State University Police. The film documents Mr. Washington’s perspective of the incident, including a Disarm PSU demonstration he attended as that school was also coming back into session for the fall.
Speaking of racial justice, let’s look at PSU’s campus public safety officers. The administration promised in August that CPSO would disarm in the fall of 2020, after years of activism by students and after Jason Washington was shot and killed by campus police in 2018. PSU said CPSO would have all firearm-free patrols “before or during the month of October,” as part of a plan to “dismantle systemic racism.”
In November 2020, the university announced campus police will not disarm until the “end of the academic year,” citing “delays in negotiating a new operating agreement with the Portland Police Bureau and rewriting 500 pages in policies and procedures.” If PSU were truly acting in good faith to disarm campus police, why would they not be up-front about these challenges in August instead of setting a deadline they knew they couldn’t meet? And if they didn’t know what the challenges were, why wouldn’t they find out before announcing a date for disarmament?
In August, we announced that our Campus Public Safety Police Officers will move to unarmed patrols, and Chief Willie Halliburton began the process of implementing the necessary policies and practices. It is an important new approach to policing and represents a commitment by CPSO to align our public safety practices with our institutional ethos and to help the PSU community heal.
We set an aggressive implementation timeline with the hope of completing the work this fall. While we are making steady progress, we are not on track to achieve our goal as soon as we’d hoped.
We remain committed to unarmed patrols.
To hear more about Chief Halliburton’s personal commitment, please watch this video. Additionally, in this email you will find a comprehensive progress report and a description of how we are implementing a number of measures designed to ensure transparency in the process.
Building a new kind of police office
We are developing a team of sworn officers deeply invested in a new approach to public safety. To ensure the safety of unarmed officers, we decided that it is necessary to have a minimum of at least two officers on duty during every shift. This is the plan we have been working to implement. However, setting our efforts back, three sworn officers recently resigned or announced their intentions to retire. We thank them for their service and wish them well. Full implementation of unarmed campus patrols requires sufficient staffing of CPSO to ensure we are able to meet the minimum two officers per shift standard.
PSU is fortunate to have one of the state’s most diverse and well-trained teams of sworn and non-sworn officers. We will continue to recruit new officers who, like those who are continuing with CPSO, are committed to moving forward with this bold new style of policing. CPSO also continues to employ many non-sworn public safety officers and student safety ambassadors.
Reviewing policies and procedures
We are unaware of any other police agency in the nation that has shifted from armed to unarmed patrols by sworn officers. Agencies across the country are contacting us wanting to know how we are going about creating this new reality. The shift requires updating hundreds of policies and procedures related to CPSO. The work is currently undergoing internal and external legal review. When the review is completed, the updated policies will be submitted to the University Public Safety Oversight Committee for approval.
Additionally, the change in policy increases our reliance on partnerships with the City of Portland and the Portland Police Bureau. We are working diligently with these organizations to reach agreements that provide the support necessary to keep our campus safe.
Moving forward with transparency
We understand that this issue is of significant interest to our campus community. We commit to the following actions to keep the community informed:
Campuswide progress reports
Online updates regarding the hiring progress of the PSU Campus Public Safety Office
November CPSO Town Hall
We are organizing a November town hall meeting to better answer specific questions about this complex shift in how we approach policing on our campus as well as any questions or concerns about public safety on our campus.
We reiterate the steadfast commitment by CPSO to implement these changes as soon as safely possible. Your patience and support are greatly appreciated as we continue this important work.
Stephen Percy PSU President
Willie Halliburton Chief of Police / Director of Public Safety