PORTLAND — Armed police officers will be on the University of Oregon campus when students return to Eugene in the fall.
The State Board of Higher Education voted unanimously late last week to allow officers with the newly formed University of Oregon Police Department to carry guns.
University President Mike Gottfredson said armed officers are needed to ensure the safety and security of students and employees. The panel agreed, but board member Jim Francesconi warned that Portland has been divided by several controversial police shootings in the past decade.
If such an incident happens on campus, "it is going to be incredibly traumatic," said Francesconi, a former Portland city commissioner.
University officers now carry batons, pepper spray and restraints, and call city of Eugene police if more powerful weapons are needed.
School officials say officers must have guns to confront an active shooter and to safely perform routine police tasks, such as conducting traffic stops and transporting suspects to jail.
Most public four-year schools in the United State have campus police, according to a 2008 survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The survey also found that 88 percent had sworn officers and 76 percent had armed officers.
"It's very standard for campuses of our size, we have close to 25,000 students, to have a police department," said Jamie Moffitt, UO vice president for finance and administration.
But it hasn't been standard in Oregon. The state's seven public universities did not have the authority to create campus departments until 2011, when the University of Oregon asked the state Legislature to change the law.
None of the other six universities has approached the board about developing an armed police force. Oregon State University, Oregon's Pac-12 Conference rival, contracts to have armed state troopers provide police service on its Corvallis campus.