When freshly vaccinated Portland State University students return to the South Park Blocks this fall, they will be greeted by campus police who no longer carry guns.
PSU President Stephen Percy announced June 11 that campus patrols will be unarmed by Sept. 1.
“I’m pleased to announce that Chief [Willie] Halliburton has committed to beginning fully unarmed campus patrols no later than Sept. 1, prior to the start of the fall term,” Percy wrote Friday. “New policies to reflect the change to unarmed patrol have been created, reviewed by the University Public Safety Oversight Committee and are now in place. I appreciate the leadership of Chief Halliburton and members of the CPSO team for their commitment to innovation in campus safety.”
The Friday afternoon announcement was hard-won.
For at least seven years, a student group called Disarm PSU has pressured the university’s administration to remove guns from campus police. That demand intensified following the 2018 shooting of a Black man named Jason Washington by campus police called to break up a fight outside a sports bar called the Cheerful Tortoise.
Washington reached to the ground to pick up a handgun that had dropped out of his holster. Police shot him nine times. A grand jury declined to indict campus officers, but PSU paid Washington’s family $1 million to avert a lawsuit.
Percy attempted a compromise in 2019—10 armed officers, 10 unarmed—but that idea was rebuffed by the student group.
A Disarm PSU spokesperson expressed skepticism June 14. “This is the third time President Percy and Chief Halliburton have announced that they will not have armed patrols,” the spokesperson said, “but we have not seen any of these announcements turn into action.”