The call to disarm Portland State University (PSU) cops has reached the Oregon Capitol.
This morning, Portland Rep. Diego Hernandez introduced House Bill 3338, a bill that would bar police at public universities—located in Oregon cities with a population exceeding 150,000—from carrying firearms. These restrictions mean the bill would directly apply to PSU and the University of Oregon (UO).
“This bill is about making students at our university campuses safer,” Hernandez said in a Thursday morning press release. “The fact of the matter is students at both campuses have said time and time again they do not want armed police on their campus."
Hernandez' bill follows two highly publicized (and criticized) incidents involving campus cops in 2018: The June shooting death of 45-year-old Jason Washington by two PSU officers and UO officers' decision to point their guns at a student of color they believed was a suspect in a petty crime (despite the suspect being reported as white).
Hernandez cites both incidents in his press release.
The bill doesn't completely bar firearms from campus police squads—it would allow campus cops to carry guns inside police headquarters, but not outside the department.
The legislation is a proposed amendment to a state law that already defines the roles and responsibilities of campus police departments. If passed by the state legislature, this new rule would go into effect on January 1, 2020.
HB 3338 has the backing of PSU students groups—including the anti-gun organization Disarm PSU, which was founded when PSU's Board of Directors first voted to arm its campus cops in 2014.
“For four years PSU communities have spoken up saying they want an unarmed campus,” said Camilo Abreu Assad, a member of PSU student government member and DisarmPSU, in Hernandez' press release. “Here we have the opportunity to address the injustice of those whose lives have already been lost to police violence on campus. Here we can prevent the further militarization of our campuses at the expense of students. We can undo the mistake of giving university presidents, unelected officials without public accountability, the authority to command armed police departments.”
The bill's introduction comes less than a week after PSU released a lengthy independent report—triggered by the death of Washington—that argued in favor of keeping PSU cops armed. The report was poorly received by student groups, a population whose concerns Hernandez says are reflected in HB 3338.
"Sound policy has to come from and center the communities impacted," Hernandez said, "and it’s time we listen to students.”