Members of Jason Washington's family attend the Portland State board of trustee's meeting to protest the decision to keep armed security on Oct. 9, 2019. Alex Wittwer/PSU Vanguard

Settlement reached between Washington family and Portland State

Portland State finalized a $1 million settlement with the family of Jason Washington on Dec. 31, 2019. 

“We have come to a resolution that acknowledges our profound loss,” said Michelle Washington in a joint statement with PSU. “However, the pain and emptiness that we are consumed with daily will be part of us for the rest of our lives. Our goal is that these changes will bring about awareness and help prevent this type of tragedy from ever occurring again. We pray that no family will ever endure the pain and suffering of losing someone as irreplaceable as Jason.” 

PSU is also working with the Washington family to create a scholarship for PSU students. 

“Our focus for the future will be to keep Jason’s memory alive by establishing a memorial scholarship,” Michelle Washington said in a joint statement with PSU. “This will serve as a reminder of Jason’s huge impact on not only his family and friends, but the entire community. Jason is and always will be remembered as a God-loving, caring, family man who was a friend to all.” 

Tentatively titled as the Jason Washington Memorial Scholarship, the logistics of the scholarship itself are still undetermined. Associate Vice President for University Communications Christopher Broderick said those details will be made by the Washington family. 

“Once they determine how much it will be and the duration, [the Washington family] will work with PSU on details such as criteria to apply, who is eligible, a selection process, what are the qualifications—need based or merit based—for instance.”

On June 29, 2018 father, husband, and Navy veteran Jason Washington was shot and killed by two PSU campus public safety officers as he attempted to stop an altercation outside of the Cheerful Tortoise bar. Washington was in possession of a firearm at the time. Police ordered him to drop the weapon and then fired. 

According to the autopsy, Washington was shot nine times. 

The incident spurred a large outcry among different groups on and off campus. 

“[Associated Students of Portland State University] completely lost trust with the university, and we were all being very vocal that we had lost trust,” said Violet Gibson, student body president at PSU. “It was a brutal time. There was shock. There was a lot of pain. There was anger and a lot of worry.”

PSU Interim President Stephen Percy also weighed in. “Mr. Washington’s death was tragic, and our campus community mourns his loss. His death made us significantly reassess our approach to campus safety.”

This reassessment came in the form of the Margolis Healy Report—released in February of 2019—which evaluated multiple metrics, including campus safety, climate, organizational structure and training. 

Percy released a holistic campus safety plan in October 2019 detailing numerous updates to CPSO.

“We’ve hired four [student safety ambassadors],” said Chief Joe Schilling, director of Campus Public Safety. “The reason we’ve started with four is so we can get them trained and working. The anticipation is that we’ll hire another round, which we may be able to get from the first group of folks that applied.”

These safety ambassadors are students with diverse racial backgrounds that better understand issues of race regarding public safety. They will report back on safety concerns on campus, including those of faculty, staff and students of color.

Schilling stated he has hired two more police officers and three public safety officers as well. The reasoning for hiring small groups is so campus safety can ensure adequate training, according to Schilling. 

In conjunction with the hiring, another stipulation of the safety plan is an improved training regiment. “Training has been scheduled,” Schilling said. “If you look at the holistic plan, the outline of the training there fits with what we’re doing.”

With training underway, Schilling also noted difficulties. “We’ve never trained student safety ambassadors, so I’m coming up with the training,” he said. “Some of it is consistent with what we do with public safety officers though. We just had a presentation from the Veterans Resource Center.” 

“We have presentations scheduled with the Women’s Resource Center, dean of Student life and the Multicultural Center,” Schilling said.

Schilling also noted the bi-annual presentations he is now required to give the PSU president and the Board of Trustees on the statistics of all CPSO training. “In June, I have a required presentation that outlines the training that has occurred up to that date.”

Schilling said these presentations will occur every six months to update the community on police, public safety and student safety ambassadors training, as well as everything done to improve campus safety, such as the inclusion of more lighting around campus.

Despite the corrective efforts made by PSU, June 29, 2018 is still a recent memory for some students.

“People are still wary,” Gibson said. “I think many have to move forward in their lives, but it’s still in the back of everyone’s mind. Now that the university has done something, maybe we can move forward in healing our campus.”