Debate over armed police intensifies at campus safety meeting
Author: Christopher Broderick  
Posted: March 7, 2019

The Portland State Board of Trustees on Thursday heard campus safety recommendations from security firm Margolis Healy at a meeting largely focused on whether campus police should be armed. 

Students, faculty, staff and others packed the Smith Memorial Student Union ballroom to hear consultants detail their findings and recommendations that include continuing with sworn, armed officers but adding more unarmed security officers, improving training for all officers, strengthening oversight, adding mental health professionals to response teams and enhancing building and campus security with more cameras, better lighting and securing buildings. 

“While we continue to believe the university should have armed officers, our recommendations call for primary reliance on unarmed officers,” said Stephen Healy, who heads the firm.  

Margolis Healy has more than 100 recommendations in its report, and board members asked about the top priorities, costs, alternatives such as returning to reliance on Portland Police Bureau, among other issues. 

More than 25 people spoke during the comment period, with 19 arguing to disarm.  Many were members of the PSU Student Union, who strongly rejected the recommendations of Margolis Healy and called for a more imaginative and acceptable approach to campus safety beyond armed officers.

Also advocating to disarm was Andre Washington, a PSU graduate and brother of Jason Washington, who was armed when he was fatally shot last June by Campus Public Safety officers. 

Four students argued that armed police continue to be necessary to protect the campus.   

The Board of Trustees took no action at the meeting. Board Chair Gale Castillo said PSU will convene a campus safety committee made up of representatives of students, faculty, staff and others to reach out across campus for responses to the Margolis Healy report in the coming weeks that can help inform the board when they make a decision in June on how to go forward to enhance campus safety.