Caving to liberal activists seldom has a good outcome, as Portland State University discovered following incidents on its campus involving unarmed security and armed criminals.
In 2020, following 100 days and nights of rioting in and around Portland, Oregon, Portland University decided that disarming campus police was a great strategy to protect its students.
According to the University’s 2020 Reimagine Campus Safety Committee Final Report, “On August 13, 2020, Portland State University President Stephen Percy announced two key changes in the University’s approach to campus public safety: first, Campus Public Safety officers would begin to patrol the campus without firearms and, second, a new Reimagine Campus Safety Committee (RCSC) would convene during the 2020-21 academic year to make a comprehensive set of recommendations for additional changes to the University’s approach to campus safety, security, welcoming, and belonging.”
Crime in Portland rose sharply since the university disarmed its patrols, including year-over-year record-breaking homicide rates. An increased rate of vandalism and burglaries has driven businesses out of the city. On campus, crime rose as well, including theft, vandalism, and rape. In 2022, one student shot another at the edge of the university’s campus.
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Per Stephen Percy, the decision to rearm campus security was due to an increase in weapons around the campus and a lack of support from the police, who, it should be noted, were targets of the “Defund the Police” movement supported by activists in and around the University.
Campus Safety Chief Willi Halliburton noted, “Recently, our officers encountered individuals on campus with weapons. This has made me make the hard decision to have more armed patrols on campus.”
Activists at the university pushed for nearly a decade to have their security force disarmed, and the 2018 shooting of Navy veteran Jason Washington by campus security fueled the fire. Still, the decision to disarm security on campus after 2020’s summer of unprecedented rioting and looting was a puzzling one.
Historically, crimes on college campuses mostly involve burglary and sexual assault. But data collected in 2022 proved an increase in on-campus violence, from rape to armed robberies and murders. This violence includes students in residence halls as well as those living off-campus.
The United States is not alone when it comes to violence on university campuses. In fact, 75% of students in UK universities and colleges reported at least one incident of forced or unwelcomed sex. Aston University in Birmingham UK has nearly 180 crimes per 1000 students, and Birmingham City University closely follows with 150 incidents per 1000 students.
At Portland University, the policy to keep security disarmed was quietly rolled back on February 14, 2023, but policy reversal was not made public until April of 2023. The safety measure is regarded by the school president, Stephan Percy, as a step back because “students are uncomfortable with the idea of armed security.”
The policy reversal allows campus security to choose whether to carry a firearm and can choose not to wear it at their discretion if they believe its presence will escalate an incident.
After the 2020 riots and the calls to defund police, largely supported by Portland University students, it’s hardly surprising that the department would be less than enthusiastic to support unarmed security on campus.
But someone needs to defend university students, especially against their own ridiculous choices.