A Portland Lawmaker Sponsors a Bill to Disarm Campus Cops

The bill emerges from controversy surrounding the death of Jason Washington at Portland State University.

Portland State University skybridge. (Courtesy of PSU.)

Bill of the Week: House Bill 3338

Chief Sponsor:
Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland)

What Problem It Seeks to Solve:
Portland State University students and community members began protesting the college's armed police force after a deadly shooting last June in front of a nearby bar, the Cheerful Tortoise. A Portland State police officer shot and killed Jason Washington, 45, as he tried to break up a bar fight. Washington had a friend's handgun that fell out of its holster before officers shot him. Activists argue campus police do not need guns.

What the Bill Would Do:
The bill would take guns away from campus police at public universities in Oregon, including PSU, leaving them armed only with Tasers and pepper spray.

Who Supports It:
Some university students, faculty and staff at PSU, including those who make up a group called Disarm PSU, support barring campus police from carrying guns. An independent review commissioned by the university found that more than half of respondents to a survey wanted campus police to be disarmed at PSU. But the review recommended keeping the campus police armed with guns, in part because not doing so could open up the university to liability if other campuses consistently issue guns to campus safety officers.

Who Opposes It:
Other students, parents, and university community members disagree and say they feel safer knowing campus cops are armed in the event of a mass shooting or other crisis. The University of Oregon Police Association submitted testimony opposing the bill, arguing that disarming campus police would make colleges less safe.

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