PSU says it will not meet the goal of disarming campus officers this fall

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Oct. 28, 2020 3:49 p.m.

Portland State University announced Tuesday that it will not be disarming its campus officers this fall term. The university had said in August that its Campus police officers would begin conducting patrols without firearms starting this fall.

“When we announced last August that we would begin unarmed patrol sometime in the fall, I knew it would be a challenging and ambitious timeline,” PSU Chief of Police and Campus Public Safety Director Willie Halliburton said in a video statement.


Halliburton said at that time, he had commitments from both his officers and the university. Since then, PSU said in a statement, three sworn officers have resigned or announced their retirement.

The university said it will require two officers to be on duty every shift to ensure safety and now it does not have enough staff to meet that requirement.


“Staff turnover, administrative delays, those things have held up this process of making sure our officers can safely and legally fulfill their duties, do this without firearms and keep this campus secure in the midst of ongoing unrest in Portland,” Halliburton said.

Halliburton said earlier this month the Campus Public Safety Office was damaged during protests and officers and staff inside were “traumatized.”

“To me, I take this personal,” Halliburton said in his statement. “Someone has to show what peace looks like. You cannot continue to fight aggression with aggression. This is our model, and we will make sure this is done at Portland State University.”

PSU said in a newsletter sent to the campus community that it will keep people updated on its hiring progress, and that it is organizing a town hall sometime next month to answer questions.

The announcement of unarming officers on PSU’s campus came about two years after PSU police shot and killed Jason Washington, a Black man who was reportedly attempting to break up a fight.

Criticism from PSU students and community members only continued to grow as demonstrations against police brutality began across the nation earlier this year.

“I am fully committed to transforming this police agency into a unit that will achieve these goals. We’ll do this without carrying weapons on patrol,” Halliburton said. “This is groundbreaking work. It might not work in other places, but I know, I know it can work here at Portland State.”