The University of Oregon announced Monday some policy reforms for the UO Police Department. The effort is to create a campus police force that will serve all community members.
The announcement comes after many students have advocated for months for the campus police department to be defunded. In a letter, UO President Michael Schill said they will neither disband or completely disarm UOPD.
“Before I discuss our plan for the future I want to be upfront about one thing: The university will neither disband the UOPD nor completely shift to an unarmed security force,” wrote Schill.
“The simple truth is that when crimes or suspected crimes occur on campus—and, unfortunately, they do occur—there will be an armed police response. The question is whether that response should be undertaken by our specially trained UOPD or by the Eugene Police Department. For me, the choice is clear—UOPD.”
However, the university will reduce the number of armed officers by 26%.
Additionally, the university will increase the number of unarmed community service officers (CSOs). Schill stated CSOs will be hired with the goal of increasing diversity within UOPD.
These officers will not be in a police uniform. By wearing easily recognizable clothes, the university is trying to make officers appear more approachable. Schill wrote CSOs will take the lead when responding to non-emergency calls that do not require the presence of a police officer. This includes taking reports of property theft after the fact, as well as providing a proactive security presence on campus.
According to the letter, routine security patrols of many campus buildings—such as the Erb Memorial Union, Knight Library, residence halls, and others—will be conducted by unarmed CSOs rather than armed police officers. Armed police officers will be available to quickly respond to incidents, if warranted.
In the coming months, the UO will also hire a consultant to lead a community process to further develop proposals to the UO safety system.
The consultant will help the UO and the community address the following issues:
A new police accountability process/review board structure.
Options for improved mental health responses and/or community partnerships.
Additional changes to the functions of armed police officers.
This story will be updated.