PSU unable to transition to unarmed campus police this fall

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland State University will not meet its fall goal of transitioning to unarmed sworn officers on campus because of the retirements of two officers and the resignation of a third, according to Willie Halliburton, campus public safety chief.

The staff turnover, coupled with delays in drafting new policies to govern the new approach, held up the process, Halliburton said.

The university in August announced the switch would be made this fall, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Now, university officials are reluctant to set a new deadline but pledge to keep the campus updated on its progress.

The campus security office needs to have eight sworn officers working before it can make the transition, as it wants the unarmed officers to respond to calls in pairs, the chief said.

“Thank you for your patience,” Halliburton said in a video posted to the university’s website.

Portland State University President Stephen Percy, in a letter to students and staff Tuesday, said the university remains committed to the change.

In 2018, Navy veteran Jason Washington was killed by a campus police officer during a melee outside a bar. The killing of Washington, who was Black, renewed calls to take guns away from campus safety.

The unarmed campus officers will remain certified as police officers as long as they keep their training up to date, but they will no longer respond to any calls on campus that involve weapons. Portland police would respond to those calls instead.