University seeks input on campus safety

    Portland State is hosting a safety forum on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 9 a.m. in the Ballroom of Smith Memorial Student Union.

    Scott Gallagher, the director of communications for PSU, explained that the forum will focus on gathering input from students, faculty and staff on the report of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety.

    One of the central recommendations of the Task Force report is to explore ways to transition from the Campus Public Safety Office to a sworn police department.

    “We currently have [the] Campus Public Safety Office. They are not armed, and they are not trained to the level of a police force,” Gallagher said.

    “It’s really a discussion about how best to provide for the ever-changing needs of the campus. When you think about it, we have 30,000 students and 5,500 faculty and staff,” said Gallagher. “In many ways, we’re a city within a city. Currently, we have a wonderful Campus Public Safety Office, but for a lot of the safety issues we rely on the Portland Police.”

    Gallagher mentioned PSU’s capacity to respond to an active shooter and coordinate response to sexual assault as two main capabilities that could be strengthened if PSU were to transition from the Campus Public Safety Office to a sworn-in police force.

    Phillip Zerzan, the chief of campus public safety, echoed and added to these priorities.

    “I would also include the ability to respond to students in crisis, to do off-campus welfare checks, and to conduct thorough criminal investigations on crimes that affect students,” Zerzan said.

    “Ultimately, the new PSU Board of Trustees will have to make a decision in December on how to proceed,” said Gallagher. “We want to provide an opportunity for everybody on campus to learn about, to get informed, and to provide feedback for [the Task Force] to take to the board to help them make their final decision.”