OSU’s New Police Force: Why the Delay

Oregon State Police will continue to serve Oregon State University through the end of the year. Plans were in place to establish an armed security department at OSU after the controversial OSP arrest of Black student Genesis Hansen, who was stopped for riding her bike on the wrong side of the street near campus. 

OSP is currently assisted by the unarmed OSU Department of Public Safety staff. 

Outgoing OSU President Ed Ray said in a university email that the development of and hiring for the college’s law enforcement program was on hold until the community has been fully engaged in dialogue and public safety design programs.  

“At the same time, we must continue to protect the university community and provide emergency response to reported incidents on the Corvallis campus,” Ray said. “President King Alexander and I agree it will take each member of the university community to achieve transformational reform, support Black Lives Matter, and end systemic inequality and discrimination against the Black community and other communities of color.” 

Ray said he sincerely appreciates that the delay will “disappoint and concern some members of our university community.” He asked for trust that OSU is moving to address what must be changed in a complete, transparent, and caring manner that will provide long-term change while improving needed community protection. 

Hansen was stopped Oct. 13 this past year for riding her bike on the wrong side of a residential street near the campus. She was charged with interfering with a peace officer and resisting arrest after she refused to show identification. The interaction was captured on video. Prosecutors did not follow through on those charges. 

Three days later, Ray said OSU was considering dropping OSP’s contract over the arrest. OSP responded that it would be ending the contract due to a manpower shortage. OSU was slated to launch its own campus police force in July of this year when OSP’s contract expired. OSU’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously for in-house campus policing, though there was some concern about meeting the tight July deadline. 

OSU previously had its own police force from 1974 to 1989. The University of Oregon and Portland State University have installed their own police departments. OSU is reportedly the only PAC-12 school that contracts law enforcement on campus.  

Edgar Rodriguez, interim associate vice president of Public Safety and Chief of Police, recently issued a statement that called for action against systemic inequality and discrimination against people of color.  

“The foundation of public safety and law enforcement in a campus setting starts with building trust through sharing of information, being fully transparent, fostering positive and personal relationships, and maintaining daily lines of communication,” Rodriguez said in the statement. “I assure that at OSU, public safety will be in line with the university’s values and principles.” 

Among his first initiatives, Rodriguez plans a Community Oriented Results and Expectation Committee (CORE) to collaborate with OSU community members’ concerns through cooperative effort and review of community needs, and also by discussing expectations and responses relative to public safety services, quality-of-life issues, and community-oriented policing. 

“I want the OSU community to know that I hear your concerns regarding Black Lives Matter, racial inequality, and policing nationally,” he said. “Please know that I will engage you in creating public safety and community policing services that represent what is best for the university, students, faculty, and staff.” 

“I chose to become a police officer 30 years ago after witnessing first-hand the mistreatment of my father by police,” Rodriguez said. “I believed then – just as I believe now – that through transparency, accountability, and collaboration with the very communities that we collectively serve, we can provide appropriate, trusted, and valued community and public safety services.” 

By Cody Mann 

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