Campus Cops Could Be Everywhere

Accustomed to seeing a UO cop, thinking “rent-a-cop” and continuing your misbehavior? Better take a second glance in that rearview. The newly christened University of Oregon Police Department (UOPD) could hand you a ticket or lock you up off campus if UO decides — internally — to change its public safety policies.

Eugene Police Auditor Mark Gissiner says that the state of Oregon has statewide jurisdiction, which means that any sworn law enforcement officer has the power to act as a cop anywhere in Oregon. “If there’s a UO police officer, on or off duty, and they’re in Bend and they see you do something that makes it probable cause that some sort of law was broken whether it was a violation, misdemeanor or felony, they can take enforcement action there or later,” he says. UOPD has 11 sworn officers among its approximately 90 employees, but public safety officers (who can cite and arrest) are its primary work force.

UOPD’s Kelly McIver says that right now a UO administrative policy means that its sworn officers aren’t supposed to enforce the law off-campus. “That’s something that’s coming from them [UO’s administration] rather than coming from some sort of state rule,” he says.

For UOPD to make the transition to a statewide authority, McIver says the first step would be to have them carry guns, which is a discussion the campus community will continue this term. Then the UO administration would have to make a change to its policy and create a memorandum of understanding with EPD and possibly the Lane County Sheriff Department.

Until June 2011, Oregon universities had two policing options: local police and campus departments of public safety. Then the Oregon Legislature passed a law that allowed universities to create full police departments.

California also has statewide jurisdiction; Washington, Idaho and Nevada do not. “Police officers have really broad powers in the state of Oregon,” Gissiner says. “I find that interesting.”

Even if UO retains its current policies, it’s still smart to consider them police because UO properties in Eugene aren’t always obvious in their ownership. McIver says, “There are some very funky property lines over in [the EWEB] area that you wouldn’t think were UO campus but are actually university-owned properties.”