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Saturday, November 12, 2011

About that U of O police force

We've wondered for a while now why the University of Oregon needs its own armed police force, rather than just continuing its traditional practice of security guards who rely on the city police for more serious incidents. Some have suggested that it's simple empire building by the campus safety folks. But surely it isn't, as administrators claimed, to save money.

Here's an interesting article that opens the door to a different interpretation:

The Penn State scandal has ended the reign of the university's patriarch and longtime football coach, Joe Paterno, amid national expressions of shock. But the case is also emblematic of a parallel judicial universe that exists at many of the country's colleges and universities.

On most of these campuses, law enforcement is the responsibility of sworn police officers who report to university authorities, not to the public. With full-fledged arrest powers, such campus police forces have enormous discretion in deciding whether to refer cases directly to district attorneys or to leave them to the quiet handling of in-house disciplinary proceedings....

Alison Kiss, the executive director of Security on Campus, a national watchdog organization based in Wayne, Pa., also praised campus police forces for strides made since the [Clery Act] was enacted. But when a university culture demands silence, she added, the campus police come under great pressure to follow suit. "Most want to do the right thing, but it's very difficult when you’re not supported," she said.

Ms. Kiss was not surprised by the news of Mr. Paterno's failure to take further action in the Sandusky case, she said, because she has dealt for years with complaints of sexual assault against football players at big sports schools, where the disciplinary result is often a brief suspension or probation, not expulsion.

Does the full-fledged university militia mean fewer eyes on the misdoings of the campus' notoriously unstable jocks? It's a proposition worth considering.

Comments (7)

Some university police forces' number of employees are larger than the city police departments where those universities are located -- and I'm not talking about small burghs out in the hills and dales, either.

And they just love to play with their war toys and their fellow city paramilitaries. For example:

G-20 University Of Pittsburgh Police Brutality

Police also deployed LRAD sound cannons once again in an attempt to disperse the protesters. Pittsburgh marks the first time that such weapons have been used against American citizens in public as before they were only used against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By no means is Bureaucratic Empire Building simple.

Do not bite the hand that feeds. Who watches the watchmen? It's right because I say it's right, etc...
No big surprises but food for thought.

I know at my alma mater, Oregon State in Corvallis, they used to have Oregon State Police (state troopers) as the campus police force. I think that is still the case, actually. They were OSP but dedicated to OSU patrol, and they used marked OSP cars.

Do they not do the same at UO and the other OSSHE schools?

PSU has their own force. Pretty nice guys about 10 years ago when I was there.

OSU cops are OSP. Anyone know why U of O are not?

"Texas Monthly" magazine was reporting on this very situation two years ago concerning Southern Methodist University's drug overdose problem. Not only are the campus police there to prevent local police from getting involved, but the entire mindset is to protect the university. The finale, for a lot of people, was that the problems with underage drinking with SMU brats was so prevalent, and the arrests becoming so common, that the dean actually suggested building a bar on campus for students, mostly so that underage drinking could be monitored by campus police and ignored as necessary.

Now, I'm not just beating on SMU because it's convenient. A lot of universities paid attention to what SMU did after its "sudden death probation" after its little pay-for-play scandal 25 years ago. Neither SMU nor other universities actually did anything about their football problems: they only changed the enforcement process to make it harder for anybody outside the schools to find out that there was a problem in the first place. The only rhing surprising about the Penn State atrocity isn't that it happened, but that this is the only thing that finally got to the outside.

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