Activists lament ‘partial win’ in push to disarm police at Portland State University

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Portland State University’s administration has been besieged by leftist student activists to back off its 2014 decision to arm its campus police force. For the past six years, the student activists under the “Disarm PSU” group has used various protest methods to pressure the university to cave to their demands.

Accuracy in Academia has covered some of their protests, such as a “die-in” protest that blocked road traffic in 2016 and disrupted a board of trustees meeting in 2019.

This past week, the university president Stephen Percy announced that campus police officers will not be armed while on patrol. Disarm PSU called this announcement a “partial win,” but stated their desire to extract more promises from the administration. The activists said that the “decision falls short of … a more just and safe campus.”

At the Academe Blog, the Disarm PSU movement penned a guest blog about student and faculty efforts to push the administration to fully disarm the campus police. It acknowledged that members of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at Portland State’s chapter support Disarm PSU’s activist efforts.

The blog also listed its other demands, which are as follows:

  1. Reverse the 2014 Resolution to employ sworn and armed officers.”
  2. Reinvest in existing structures and create new investments to address historic racism and anti-Black violence at PSU.”
  3. Reimagine what public safety at PSU looks like and recognize that safety means different things to different people.”

The activists blasted the administration for permitting campus police officers to “carry so-called ‘less-than-lethal’ weapons, including Tasers” and advocated for full disarmament of the campus police.

The blog also noted the death of Jason Washington, a black male, in 2018 after campus police officers intervened in a drunken brawl outside a bar in Portland. Washington was shot and killed by Portland State University police officers when they saw he had a gun at his hip, which gun belonged to his friend. His friend said that he gave Washington his gun because he, the friend, had been drinking too much and his judgment was impaired.

The responding police officers saw the gun at Washington’s hip and told Washington to drop the gun as Washington appeared to have walked away before police officers shot and killed him. Video footage did not reveal whether Washington had the gun in his hand at the time. The police officers were not charged with a crime by a county grand jury due to self-defense grounds.

Disarm PSU said that Washington’s death highlighted the “larger context of the systemic problem of police brutality targeting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and other marginalized communities.”

Yet the blog did not address the security and safety ramifications of disarming the police nor specific situations, such as confronting an armed suspect, responding to a hostage situation, or neutralizing an armed shooter on-campus.