Portland State University plans to establish a committee of students and faculty to summarize campus responses to the board of trustees as it continues to grapple with pressure to disarm campus officers.
The Campus Public Safety Report Review and Response Committee will be charged with providing campus feedback to the board by May. The board will direct administrative staff to assess the impact of the recommendations, including fiscal impact and feasibility.
Board member Gale Castillo announced the plan at a special board of trustees meeting Thursday, where the board and the campus community could ask questions of the independent consulting firm tasked with reviewing campus public safety policies at the university. The consulting firm Margolis Healy ultimately recommended PSU keep its armed campus officers.
Students and faculty prepared once again to grill board members about the results of the review, which was commissioned after armed campus officers shot and killed a man named Jason Washington near campus last year.
Members of PSU’s student union appeared largely unimpressed by Castillo’s announcement, taking time during a break in the meeting to read the names of people killed on college campuses.
“Jason Washington, say their names!” students chanted. “Disarm PSU! Disarm PSU!”
It was yet another in a series of heated meetings that highlight the board’s inability to overcome built-up frustration from protests over the initial decision to arm officers in 2015 and since the June 2018 shooting.
“A threat I see is that PSU will continue an unfortunate reputation of not centering the voices of black, brown, marginalized, queer folks, and will instead choose not to listen to them,” said Kristin Teigen, an adjunct instructor at PSU, during the meeting. “And that reputation of not responding to those voices, of not centering those voices, will hamper the continued success or the possible success of this urban university.”
Board members showed little sign of how they intend to move forward on the issue of arming campus officers. That’s likely because another report commissioned by the university to look into officer conduct and actions during the June 2018 shooting has yet to be released.
Student union representatives appeared less willing to rehash concerns over arming officers, and instead came to the public comment period with a counter-proposal to the Margolis Healy report.
“We believe there is a chance for PSU to radically rethink campus public safety policy and that process must center the leadership of students,” their counter-proposal read.
In it, the PSU student union recommends disarming campus police, investments in non-police alternatives and refrain from contracting with private security or the Portland Police Bureau.
“For one, PSU can look into hiring outreach workers to respond to calls that CPSO would normally respond, especially calls regarding houseless people on campus,” their proposal read. “One model, which is currently being considered by the City of Portland, is Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS).”
Washington’s family sat in the front row of the room during the public comment period. Andre Washington, Jason Washington’s brother, told board members he’s an alum of PSU. He detailed an encounter he had with campus public safety officers in April 2010.
Washington said the encounter occurred when he and a friend, who is also black, moved his car from the west side of campus to a garage close to College Street.
“Yes, the street Jason Washington took his last breath on,” Andre Washington said. “That street.”
Andre said he and his friend were accosted by three campus officers.
“We were ordered out of my car, asked for my license, insurance, registration, and my Portland State University identification,” Andre Washington told board members. “I asked why we were being detained and asked for information. The answer: ‘Shut up, or I’m calling Portland Police.’”
Andre Washington said if those officers had been armed in 2010, he may not be alive today.
“You see, members of the board, these same practices have been going on for decades. And those same practices and fear led to the murder of Jason Washington.”
Information gathered by the Campus Public Safety Report Review and Response Committee will be reviewed by the board of trustees at its June board meeting.