Reforms to UO Police Department

November 9, 2020

Dear University of Oregon community,

Recent incidents of police violence against people of color have led to a healthy debate across the country about police reform and how best to utilize law enforcement agencies to protect and serve ALL of the people in our communities. That is certainly true here at the University of Oregon, where we are fortunate to have a police chief—Matt Carmichael—who has unequivocally denounced police brutality and leaned into a dialogue about how the UO Police Department (UOPD) can continue to make progress toward being an even more inclusive and community-oriented campus law enforcement agency.

Over the last few months, Chief Carmichael, I, and many other campus leaders have begun a wide-ranging dialogue with students, faculty, staff, and the broader community about the goals of the “disarm” movement and how to balance those demands against the UO’s legitimate need to prevent crime and protect campus. I would like to thank everyone involved for the respectful discussions and reasoned approach, because it has paved the way for the reforms that I am announcing today.

Before I discuss our plan for the future I want to be upfront about one thing: The university will neither disband the UOPD nor completely shift to an unarmed security force. The simple truth is that when crimes or suspected crimes occur on campus—and, unfortunately, they do occur—there will be an armed police response. The question is whether that response should be undertaken by our specially trained UOPD or by the Eugene Police Department. For me, the choice is clear—UOPD.

While the bucolic setting of our campus may lull us into a sense of security, crime and the threat of crime do affect us. Sadly, we are all too familiar with the type of violent events—including mass shootings—that have tragically impacted other campuses in Oregon and across the country in recent years. Additionally, we have seen criminal activity and violent incidents come uncomfortably close on a number of occasions to our usually safe campus here in Eugene. And, on a regular basis, our police officers confront criminals or face serious situations on or near campus that require them to have the full array of law enforcement tools at their disposal to protect the community.

Ultimately, our campus is best served by a dedicated and fully equipped law enforcement agency that is familiar with our campus, understands and embraces our shared values, is engaged in the day-to-day life of the institution, and has established relationships with students, affinity groups, our faculty, and staff. That said, I understand that to some members of our community—particularly people of color—an armed police force generates feelings of oppression and a lack of safety. It is important to me and to our entire community that all of us feel safe and included at the University of Oregon. Therefore, in the coming months, the University of Oregon will take the following steps: 

  1. We will reduce the number of armed UOPD officer positions by 26 percent and simultaneously substantially increase the number of unarmed community service officers (CSOs), as soon as we can hire and train appropriate personnel. As we hire our CSOs, we will do so with a goal of increasing diversity within UOPD and in accordance with our campus values of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  2. Routine security patrols of many campus buildings—particularly those used by students, such as the Erb Memorial Union, Knight Library, residence halls, and more—will be conducted by unarmed CSOs rather than armed police officers. Armed police officers, however, will be available to quickly respond to incidents, if warranted.
  3. Unarmed CSOs will also take the lead in responding to non-emergency calls for service that do not require the presence of a police officer, such as taking reports of property theft after the fact or providing a proactive security presence on campus.
  4. CSOs will not wear police-style uniforms and instead will wear easily recognizable attire aimed at making them appear more approachable and non-threatening to the campus community.
  5. In the next few months, we will hire a consultant with expertise in policing and diverse communities to lead an inclusive process with our community to develop further proposals to make our public safety system one that inspires the confidence of all campus stakeholders. I am hopeful that we can engage all interested groups in this effort at transformation. Specifically, the consultant will help us develop:
    • A new police accountability process/review board structure
    • Options for improved mental health responses and/or community partnerships
    • Additional changes to the functions of armed police officers

The UO is a community that has been well-served by the UOPD. That said, the reforms I am announcing are rooted in the belief that UOPD can continue to evolve to meet the needs of all of our students, faculty, and staff. These are important steps toward ensuring that the University of Oregon campus is welcoming and inviting to all and continues to be a wonderful and safe place to live, work, study, or visit.

Thank you.

Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law