Campus police at Portland State University started carrying guns again quietly almost two months ago. This was done in response to what officials say is a rise in the number of weapons found on campus. Most students, faculty, and staff learned about the change Tuesday, 11 April 2023, when President Stephen Percy said he was doing so “to be open and honest.”
“Our officers are encountering an increasing number of weapons on and near campus and they are receiving limited assistance from the Portland Police Bureau due to increased demands for officers across the city,” Percy said.
“These factors have necessitated a change in practice on the part of campus police officers: To protect our campus, our nine sworn officers are having to go on most patrols carrying arms.”
According to the Oregon public broadcasting department, Since 2014, when PSU armed officers, even though some people on campus didn’t want them to, the question of whether to arm police on the downtown campus has been controversial.
Then, on June 28, 2018, Jason Washington was shot and killed by campus police. Washington, who was black, was shot while trying to stop a fight outside a bar near PSU.
After that shooting, there were protests on campus, which led to a new campus safety plan that kept armed officers and added new security positions that didn’t have guns. People who didn’t want armed campus police weren’t happy.
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When protesters in Portland joined a national movement after the police killed George Floyd in the summer of 2020, disarming PSU police became a big issue again.
Leaders at PSU agreed to switch to unarmed campus patrols starting in the fall of 2020, but the change didn’t happen immediately. Officials said they didn’t have enough people to make the change, so it was put off until the next school year.
Now, people in charge at Portland State say it’s time to switch back to armed patrols on campus. In an email to OPB, PSU said that on February 14, PSU Police Chief Willie Halliburton gave campus police the power to do this.
“Feb. 14 was the effective date when Chief Halliburton shifted from making the call to arm patrols as necessary (something that was allowed under the unarmed patrol policy from the beginning) to allowing officers to arm at their discretion,” PSU’s director of strategic communications Christina Williams said in an email.
People on campus didn’t find out about this change until April 11. This was almost two months after officers were given the choice of whether or not to carry guns.
Williams said that the president’s office and the university’s Public Safety Oversight Committee “were told before the message.”
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