O campus police! Have you your pistols?

By Alyck Horton
Arming campus security would overcome a lack of protection

One of Portland State’s main selling points is that it’s an urban campus, in the middle of downtown Portland, to which thousands of people commute every day.

kayla nguyen/VANGUARD STAFF

We’re close to everything and able to use the city as a teaching aid, and campus is very convenient to get to, whether you’re coming from Troutdale or Forest Grove.

The problem is that we’re too accessible.

Take a walk through the South Park Blocks and you’ll be offered a slew of drugs, asked for money countless times and, if you’re lucky, even witness a homeless man urinating in the flower beds.

When these encounters happen on campus—unpleasant as they are—they’re harmless and can be taken care of by having campus security speak to the accused party.
What if these confrontations escalate?

Currently, campus security would pull up in their police-issue Crown Victoria and speak to the offender. If the officer’s in danger or the situation escalates into an emergency situation, the protocol is to call 911 and wait for Portland police to be dispatched, leaving several minutes during which officers must stall while potentially in danger.

Oregon State University and the University of Oregon use armed officers on campus, and according a survey conducted by the Justice Department, 86 percent of college campuses with more than 15,000 students arm their security staff.

There have been 19 weapons-related referrals or arrests in the last three years on the PSU campus—19 instances where campus security was in some way jeopardized by a weapon and unequipped to handle the situation without putting themselves in danger.

“What happens when campus security gets there to save the day? Would they be able to subdue the culprit without being armed? What if the assailant is armed?”

business freshman Marissa Lemus asked. “I say it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

I don’t advocate everyone carrying guns. Under normal circumstances, people have no reason to carry or even own a firearm, as our environment has no inherent danger that warrants the need to defend ourselves with artillery.

We as normal citizens aren’t responsible for physically protecting the campus—that responsibility belongs to campus security.

One fear: If campus security officers were supplied with guns, the campus would automatically fall under martial law.

Another fear: that campus security officers would emulate the Portland Police
Bureau and adopt their notorious “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude, and that racial profiling and accidents would occur, doing more harm than good.

If we were in Corvallis or Eugene (which enjoy a more secluded setting) and arming campus security were in question, I’d fail to see why officers needed guns.

Campus security’s job on a typical college campus is primarily to deal with students, but in an urban location such as ours—where thousands of people who have no involvement with the school travel through campus—it’s a different job.
As unfortunate as it is, we need to take events like the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 as a wake-up call.

We not only need to equip our security with better physical equipment; we also need to make sure they’re the best trained and the most able to do the job.


  1. It’s important to understand that the university is talking about forming a university police department with armed police officers and not trying to have an armed security force.


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