By: Amanda Martin-Tully
A recent article published by The Vanguard (Vol 67 No. 12) introduced Head of Security Philip Zerzan’s desire to create a Portland State University Police force. This does not mean that the current security guards would be armed. Instead, in addition to the current unarmed security guards there would be trained official police officers – which means they would be carrying guns. The goal behind this Zerzan says, is to have a full service police department on campus in order to handle sexual assaults, as many go unreported.
Currently if a sexual assault occurs on campus, the Portland Police are notified and handle the call. Unfortunately, as the offender is usually not on scene, the priority level of the call is very low, or a level 5. According to Zerzan, who was responsible for handling law enforcement issues at Oregon State University (OSU) prior to his hiring at PSU, the Portland Police don’t “understand the dynamic of a university”. In addition, Zerzan doesn’t believe that regular officers are properly trained to handle sexual assault cases the way Detectives are, so there would be a full time Detective on campus at all times as well.
According to The Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act of Campus Security and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act), any college campus receiving financial aid must publish a yearly report of all the crimes that occur on or around the campus (available on the PSU Campus Security website). From 2008 to 2011 there have been 22 forcible sex offenses that have been reported on campus. Nineteen of those occurred in residence halls. In the same time span, no non-forcible sex offenses have occurred. While any sex offense is one too many, the question must be asked – how will armed police lower sex offenses?
As of now there is no budgetary outline for the cost of this Portland State Police force, as Scott Gallagher, one of PSU’s Media Directors emphasizes, this concept is still in the early planning stages. Obviously though, if PSU is to have its own police force, the cost of such an endeavor is valuable for students to be aware of. Now according to the Portland Police Bureau’s Police Officer Wage Scale of 2011, entry-level officers make $45,136.00 annually. So if there were to be, six officers employed, that would be approximately $270,816.00 a year. To employ a Detective, it would cost significantly more as at least four and half years of experience are required before an officer may be considered for such a position. More information about Police rules and salaries can be found on The Portland Police’s website. As tuition costs continue to rise, it is vital that all expenditures made by the University are valid and well planned out, financially.
Gallagher says the Administration plans to conduct student surveys using such mediums as online questionnaires and pencil and paper surveys. The Associated Student of Portland State University (ASPSU) President Tiffany Dollar plans to conduct her own surveys as a separate endeavor. It must be taken into consideration that during the last ASPSU election, only nine-percent of students voted. According to ASPSU’s Communications Director, Anthony Stine, there are currently around 30,000 students attending PSU – so approximately 2,700 of them voted. So even if the student body’s opinion is taken into consideration, a very small percentage of students will have their input taken into account.
Now for those worried about sexual assault and overall security on campus, PSU offers some helpful tips through their crime prevention and personal safety link located on the Campus Security’s website. Such tips include: “know what you want sexually and don’t send mixed messages”, “never be drawn into a gang rape situation”, and “if you have problems when you drink, you are probably a problem drinker”.