Portland State University To Rearm Its Police Force

Portland, Ore. — Portland State University (PSU) has announced that its campus police officers will now carry arms on most patrols due to an increasing number of weapons on and near the campus. In a message addressed to the campus community, PSU President Stephen Percy stated that the shift to armed patrols was necessary to protect the campus. However, he also noted that the move does not alter the university’s commitment to actively pursue a campus safety system that prizes de-escalation and respects the dignity of the diverse campus community.

This change in policy comes after the campus police force was subjected to criticism following the tragic shooting of Jason Washington by campus police officers in 2018 and the racial justice protests of 2020. Since then, PSU has committed to pursuing innovative, trauma-informed approaches to handling safety and security on campus. In September 2021, routine unarmed patrols by sworn officers were introduced on the campus as a groundbreaking change in campus policing. However, the increasing number of weapons on and near the campus has led to a change in practice, with armed patrols becoming necessary.

President Percy emphasized that the shift to armed patrols is part of an ongoing conversation and effort to rethink how PSU does campus safety. He further noted that the university will continue to coordinate with city officials and other organizations to support the downtown community and collaborate with programs like Portland Street Response that assist people experiencing mental health and behavioral health crises without law enforcement.

PSU Chief Willie Halliburton, who leads the safety office, has also invited the campus community to participate in the ongoing conversation about campus safety. Students can learn more about this by attending “Coffee with the Chief” on Monday mornings at 10 a.m. at Smith Memorial Student Union in the dining area next to the food court. Additionally, anyone interested in getting involved in conversations about campus safety can send an email to [email protected] to get connected.

President Percy emphasized that his commitment to maintaining a campus where everyone feels a sense of safety and belonging will never waver. Going forward, he and Chief Halliburton will meet with the University Public Safety Oversight Committee on a monthly basis to review campus safety conditions and discuss the path forward.