Oregon Health & Science University Arms Campus Cops
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
OHSU is taking advantage of new Oregon laws allowing state colleges and OHSU to establish and arm their own police forces.
Before the new laws, Oregon universities had to contract with local and state police to handle campus crime. They also had their own, unarmed security guards. Universities are now looking to create their own police departments by either hiring police or getting their staff trained to be certified police officers.
OHSU armed five officers Monday morning, though officials said not much should change on campus.
“99.9 percent of the day-to-day activities of our officers don't change,” OHSU Police Department Director Greg Moawad said. “What's changed is that they're prepared for that 0.1 percent chance that there is an active shooter on campus.”
The potential of an active shooter situation, like the kind on the campus of Pacific University in Seattle last summer, was the primary reason for the university move. Current Portland police response times to the university campus was between 7 and 14 minutes. The average active shooter event lasts between 5 and 7 minutes, according to Moawad.
“Communication and de-escalation are going to be key for our officers,” he added.
Until Monday, the University of Oregon was the only public college to have its own armed police.
The U of O lobbied the legislature in 2011 to allow universities to have their own police forces. The law passed and in 2013 the school got permission from the Board of Higher Education to train and arm its own cops. Those officers started patrolling the Eugene campus last year.
The university is arming officers as they come onto their shifts, Moawad said. Three more were expected to get their guns Monday night. Eventually, the police force of 25 officers will all be armed.
“It is going to put them into a position if we had a catastrophic event on our campus that they will be able to respond,” Moawad said.
Portland State University is mulling the idea of establishing its own police department and will hold an open forum Oct. 7 to get feedback, PSU Director of Communications Scott Gallagher said.
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