The current issue before the Board of Trustees regarding whether or not to arm our campus security makes me a bit nervous.
It doesn’t take a skilled political analyst to understand why this Portland State student is a little hesitant to embrace having sworn police officers packing heat all over campus. With violence happening all over the nation due to police misconduct and abuse of power, it’s a wonder there isn’t more obstinacy toward such an idea.
I’m not one who often gets in trouble with the campus security here on campus, so I know that overall my life will not be affected by such a change (assuming the university was being honest when they said that the $1.5 million it will take to upgrade security won’t result in higher tuition).
Nevertheless, when it comes to issues of security, surveillance and police work, I’m tired of hearing the mantra: “If you have nothing to hide and aren’t a criminal, then you have nothing to worry about.”
You don’t have to be an offender, a criminal or a troublemaker to be worried about the militarization of our campus security.
Such mentality is particularly typical of post-9/11 America. People hardly hesitate to oppose greater government intrusion and are eager to hand over more rights in return for feeling like they have more security. Anyone who’s been through a TSA screening at the airport lately knows exactly what I’m talking about.
I acknowledge the arguments that have been made which claim that having sworn officers will allow campus security to respond better to mental health crises and cases of sexual assault, but I am not sure how having sworn armed officers prevents mental health crisis or sexual assault from happening. Guns and police will solve nothing.
I’ve also read that the Campus Public Safety Office isn’t allowed to respond to the report of an overdose, but quite frankly, I’m sure medical responders will be more useful than any security officer, sworn or not. Let’s also not forget the fact that PSU still lacks a good samaritan policy, so the newly-sworn police force could respond and then proceed to arrest both the user and the person who made the call to save his friend’s life if they felt so inclined.
The potential risk of an active shooter makes people open to the idea of armed police officers. People often cite the fact that we’re the only public campus in Oregon that doesn’t have sworn police officers, casting the image that our campus is unsafe or at risk.
Comparing us to other universities doesn’t make much sense given the fact we have a very different, non-traditional campus. A large amount of our student body commutes, and we are surrounded and intermingled with the city.
Supporters of arming CPSO cast the picture that a shooter might appear on campus and the defenseless CPSO will have to handle it while we wait desperately for the police to respond and deliver us with their powers of shooting things and legal precedence.
However, I would argue that the presence of sworn police officers doesn’t make a campus the least bit safer.
Virginia Tech, the site of the most prolific university school shooting, had sworn police officers. Even though they were able to respond within three minutes, they were unable to stop the assailant before he killed 32 students, injured 17 and took his own life.
In addition, according to a survey conducted at the University of Oregon, which has sworn police officers, one in three women has been sexually assaulted and 10 percent of women surveyed have been raped. The worst part is that 90 percent of such crimes were never reported.
It’s clear that a sworn and armed campus security only casts an illusion of security and would probably be no more effective than the sworn and armed officers on other campuses.
Along with this, the current trend of trigger-happy police officers, especially toward young minorities, makes me a bit worried that such “upgrades” might, in the end, endanger students rather than protect them.
For me, school shootings, sexual assault and other crimes deserve attention and the most careful response. However, the issues of sexual assault and school shootings are a cultural and moral battle—not one that can be won with police officers and guns.