'We can provide full service as a police department if we are armed'

EUGENE, Ore. - Agreement and curiosity was present between two University of Oregon Police Department officers and the attendants in a "Coffee with the Chief" forum held last month at the EMU Building.

The forum was held to discuss the possibility of arming the campus police.

Facilitating the meeting was UOPD Interim Police Chief and Executive Director, Carolyn McDermed. Joining her was UOPD Captain Pete Deshpande.

Topics discussed included the importance of arming the UOPD, how the officers are trained, their plan for maximizing the use of police officers on campus and the frequency of bicycle patrols compared to squad car patrols.

"I believe we can provide full service as a police department if we are armed. If we are not armed, we are going to be limited in the services that we can provide," Chief McDermed said. "They'll be able to provide full services to this campus and deal effectively with issues that are important to people about campus safety here; prioritize to meet the needs of the campus."

No arguments were heard from the attendants in the forum about arming the UOPD.

"It's the easiest decision you are going to have to make. You just can't expect somebody to do this without giving them the tools that they need to do it," said attendant Roger Stephen, a retired Eugene citizen. "I've done an informal survey with people that I run into that I know in town and there hasn't been a single person that hasn't thought that they should move forward with the arming. It's a very dangerous job and there's lot of things they can't do until they get to that point."

Other attendants offered a different perspective.

"The drawbacks to the plan are that we are going to have a police force on campus; it's not necessarily going to make the campus safer than a department of safety would," said attendant Nick Ekblad, a Spanish major at the University of Oregon. "Their scope has been widened whereas they are not focusing so much as what is happening on campus right now, which is the type of safety patrol that we need."

According to McDermed, the University of Oregon is the only one in the Pac-12 that does not have an armed department.