The “Back to the Books” edition of the Oregon Daily Emerald highlighted the University’s plans to create a campus police force and the effort to legislation allowing them to do so. This would give officers on the UO Campus a much broader range of authority, as well as the possibility of these campus officers carrying firearms or other weapons. Current state statutes prevent campus security officers from carrying firearms, and while state law permits non-lethal weapons such as stun guns, University policy prevents UO Department of Public Safety officers from carrying them.
It is difficult to imagine, in light of incidents like the attempted drowning of two DPS officers by a suspect (reported in the Register-Guard), why Public Safety wouldn’t want to have at least some form of less-lethal self-defense available. Moreover, it’s somewhat interesting that the UO wants to jump from a Department of Public Safety that can’t even carry tazers to a sworn police force that would, by every estimation, carry firearms of some kind. Isn’t that skipping a few steps?
Similar legislation has been introduced repeatedly in the past, but the bill planned for the upcoming legislative session carries the full support of the UO. A “working group” to implement a UO police force was created in January by VP for Finance and Administration Frances Dyke. Their progress thus far seems to be limited to the creation of a blog displaying links to articles on the subject in the Register-Guard. UO Public Safety has created a rather extensive FAQ page about the process, which can be viewed here.
What is notable about the process thus far is the complete lack of student input. The only student voice seen in any of the articles about the subject was that of ASUO President Amélie Rousseau, who, according to the Register-Guard article cited above, said “that if the public safety department wants expanded authority, it also needs to accept expanded oversight by the university and students.” This can be roughly translated as ASUO wanting a say in how law enforcement is conducted on campus, which is a surprise to . . . absolutely nobody.
The creation of a campus police force is already the stated goal of the University; there seems to have been no opportunity for student input in the process. While such a process would most likely include immeasurable whining about mean, fascist cops running around shooting students at random (as Rousseau did earlier in the RG’s article), its kind of unsettling that the student body has been fairly well excluded from having any sort of input on issue. Given the University’s history of cherishing student input, the outlook for student involvement on this subject is, to put it mildly, bleak.