Students, staff and faculty at Portland State University are currently debating whether an armed university police force would effectively reduce student sexual assaults.
The campus currently has public safety officers, but they are prohibited from performing off-campus investigations, according to The Oregonian. Phil Zerzan, chief of campus public safety, said that makes following up on sexual assaults a slow and complicated process.
Zerzan also said Portland police do not always have the time to handle reports of students sexually assaulted off campus, but a campus police force would be able to take over this responsibility.
Jessica Amo, the director of the university’s Women’s Resource Center, wrote a letter, in August of 2013, in support of a campus police force. She wrote that students often have to report assault to multiple officers or go to a different county. She also wrote that a campus police force would enable students to report sexual assault incidents in a safer environment.
However, not all agree a campus police force would be beneficial.
Senior Melinda Joy Roberts told The Oregonian that focusing on reporting incidents distracts from the most important component: prevention.
“It would only help statistics. It wouldn’t help the victim that hasn’t been assaulted yet,” the 26-year-old said.
Roberts said she was sexually assaulted during the summer of 2013, a few months before she transferred to Portland State, where she is now involved in sexual assault education advocacy.
Almost 80 percent of sexual assaults against college students are committed by a friend, romantic partner or acquaintance, according to the American College Health Association.
Roberts said a campus police force may stop a rapist from “popping out of the bushes,” but it would not prevent the majority of assaults that occur in private spaces.
The expected cost of a campus police force is around $1.5 million. Roberts said she would like to see that money go toward educating students about assault and consent.
To voice your opinion, take The Oregonian’s poll.