Concerns about campus security structure and ethics raised by OSU students – The Daily Barometer

Oregon State University has had its own police department since January 2021, but some students are against its presence on campus due to ethical and racial concerns.

In 2019, Genesis Hansen, a fourth-year OSU double-major in English and Philosophy and a person of color, was arrested by Oregon State Police in a controversial off-campus incident for interfering with an PSO officer by refusing to present identification and resisting arrest. after being stopped while cycling.

Prior to this incident, OSU had contracted with OSP to provide law enforcement services in Corvallis, Oregon, but different groups of OSU students had already pushed to remove OSP from the college campus. This incident involving Hansen reinforced these calls for the disarmament of the OSU.

OSP terminated its contract with OSU a few days after this incident, citing personnel problems. The OSU then decided to create its own police force, which falls under the broader umbrella of the Department of Public Security and took over on January 1, 2021.

According to the OSU’s Public Safety website, “In 2013, the Oregon legislature passed legislation allowing Oregon public universities with boards of directors to independently choose whether to operate their own licensed law enforcement department. “

In addition to dispatchers, the emergency management and secretariat team included in the OSU public security department are two types of officers: unsworn public security officers and sworn police officers from the security service. OSU police.

According to OSUPD Lt. David Sweeney, PSOs are security officers responsible for public safety at OSU. Sweeney said PSOs generally respond to less hazardous tasks such as unlocking buildings, starting and cycling incidents.

The armed OSUPD, however, responds to events where a higher level of danger may be present, according to Sweeney. OSU police officers also have the power to arrest.

Sweeney said PSOs on the OSU campus drive the large trucks that are often seen on campus, which are valuable as they can recover lost, stolen or abandoned bikes. On the other hand, Sweeney said the OSUPD drives Ford Explorers or SUVs. OSUPD vehicles are orange and white and have “Police – Oregon State University” written on the side.

About five months after OSP terminated its contract with OSU, the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools and many students suddenly had more to worry about, like money, moving, and going to school. line.

“I’ve heard that there have been negative reactions to our having our own policing system,” said Shaurya Gaur, third-year computer science student at OSU. “I was only on campus six months before [COVID-19] touched, it didn’t seem that different… I feel like something I never saw was an email or an announcement, like this is our new public safety strategy and how it works.

Gaur said the OSU is constantly sending emails from the president’s office and other leaders to inform students of the pandemic or sporting events, but says there has been no real effort to educate them.
The OSU community on the new public safety measures on campus.

“I think it’s intentional [that students don’t know], and I think a lot of students – it’s not their fault that they don’t care about a lot of these issues, because you come to OSU and you leave your house, you might have to work yourself in school, or just take so much responsibility, ”said Jo O’Harrow, a fourth-year math major at OSU. “You’re so busy you don’t have time to learn more about this really ugly and nuanced story.”

O’Harrow said the COVID-19 pandemic made it easier for the school to educate students about the new police department. Even now that most of the students have returned to campus, they are focused on their readjustment to college amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Jason J. Dorsette, branch president of the Linn and Benton Counties National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when the United States abolished slavery in 1865, they created what we call today the police system.

“I will say that at OSU the public safety department is aware, wants to do better and goes against an international narrative that all cops are bad,” Dorsette said. “Although I appreciate the training and the work [on police departments], we need to consider the story and ask ourselves why we are having the same conversations. It takes count and we have to improve, but we’re on the right track in Oregon. “

After George Floyd, a black man, was murdered by ex-policeman Derek Chauvin in Minnesota in 2020, Sweeney said police had another opportunity to respond to the kind of policing the community wants. .

“To be effective, police services must be part of the community, not just an occupying force that comes in and ‘commits to enforce the law’ without community input,” Sweeney said.

According to Gaur, the police are primarily trained in handling weapons and viewing the individuals they are supposed to protect as preventive threats.

“It’s not really great for a lot of scenarios,” Gaur said. “Finalizing the police doesn’t completely destroy the police, but takes away their functions… mental health-related visits, substance abuse issues, parking tickets – there are a lot of things you don’t have. need a gun… Armed officers are really only for violent people. crimes. “

Last spring, Dorsette said he and two colleagues were invited by the new OSU Chief of Police Sharon Anderson to lead a training course on the history of policing, specifically illustrating how policing in the state of Oregon continues to affect blacks, aboriginals and others. of color every day.

“It was uncomfortable for me as a black person to facilitate and [for them] as officers to hear, ”said Dorsette. “This training that I was able to follow was an intensive training, one week, three hours a day. After each session, we engaged in a brainstorming activity. . . I asked the officers to tell me how they felt, from shock to disbelief, guilt, crying, all that.

Dorsette said he believes this new OSU public security service is doing better and appears to hold each other accountable for their actions. Dorsette also said it was imperative for police departments across the state of Oregon to heed her story and ask, “Why are we having the same conversations today in 2021?” “

According to O’Harrow, no one can be a good cop because the system is fundamentally bad. They said a few small improvements within the existing system are better than none, but the system is still inherently racist.

“The first step is to realize there is a problem and educate yourself about the problem, and then the second step is to make the changes and fix it,” Gaur said.

Ida M. Morgan