There are a lot of new faces at the University of Oregon Police Department.
This fall, the ministry hired nine community service officers, newly created positions replacing seven sworn police positions within the agency.
Unlike sworn officers, community service officers are not armed. Early next year, once the nine new officers complete their training, they will perform a variety of tasks on campus, including building security checks, foot and bicycle patrols in areas with high traffic. students, responding to crime reports, and community awareness and engagement.
Rather than police-style uniforms, officers will wear easily recognizable black polo shirts and pants, with the goal of making them more accessible to all members of the OU campus community.
The shift to additional unarmed officers – influenced by feedback from OU students, national concerns about brutality and racial prejudice in the police service, and a review of UOPD data calls – is a move important for the agency, said UOPD chief Matt Carmichael.
Carmichael said he sees the change as a tremendous opportunity for the UOPD to embrace the goals of community policing, without losing the core functions that only the agency’s remaining sworn officers can perform to keep people safe. OU campus.
âTo be clear, community service officers are not a substitute for police officers and are not meant to fill that role. They are two very different positions, âsaid Carmichael. âThis is basically a new program; the style of training is different, the tasks are different. It will build on and advance our police service’s commitment to community policing. The new UOPD community services officers were hired under a new process: their main hiring committees included UO employees, students, and representatives from external community groups that advocate for people of color, but no UOPD employees.
The new group of nine officers is younger and more diverse than the UOPD staff as a whole, and includes four recent university alumni. Three Community Services Officer positions also remain to be filled, including two positions at UO Portland.
âHiring from the UO community is a big help in achieving the goals of this program,â said Ben McNulty, executive director of security for UOPD, who oversees community service officers on a day-to-day basis. day. âWho knows our students better than our former students? “
New Community Service Officers go through an extensive training program, which includes learning campus security protocols, UOPD and UO policy, as well as mandatory training on implicit biases and de-escalation with the state.
Rebekah Galick, a UO graduate who was one of three UOPD community service officers before the new hires arrived, helps these officers find their feet.
âAll of the people we have hired are fantastic,â said Galick. âI am really excited to see what they are going to do for our community. “
Rex Manu, who graduated from the OU in 2020, chose to apply to become a Community Service Officer because of the deep affection he developed for the OU during his time as a varsity student-athlete.
âI feel like being in this position will allow me to help this community that I love when it needs me,â he said.
Manu said he was also inspired by the positive interactions he had with Galick when he was still a student.
âHis approach to customer service was really refreshing,â he said. “She was easy to talk to and accessible.”
Manu is excited to start functioning as a full-fledged Community Service Agent, along with his colleagues, in early 2022, but said he was grateful for the extensive training the agents were taking this fall.
âHonestly, it really opened my eyes, just because there is so much going on to keep our campus safe and secure,â he said. With their increased number, community service agents will be able to play a more important role within the UOPD.
Agency management has detailed a long list of tasks and responsibilities that will primarily fall to community service workers, and they have created a detailed matrix of the type of workers who will respond to different service calls.
But McNulty said he was eager to receive feedback from the campus community on how the new agents should be used and where they should be deployed.
âThe long-term success of this revamped Community Service Agent program will depend heavily on our listening to the needs of our students and employees,â he said.
For the first time, Eugene’s campus will be covered 24/7 by community service workers, which Galick says is “really exciting.”
For example, the Knight Library is open 24/7 during typical Finals weeks, she said, meaning community service workers can now be on site during night hours.
It will also mean that a UOPD Community Services Officer will always be available to provide a late night security escort to a student, or to help start a car, or to help someone locked in a classroom. or a building, Galick added.
Part of the goal of bringing in more community service workers is to ensure that all UO students and employees feel comfortable accessing the important safety and security services provided by the UOPD.
“I know from my experience I’ve seen students who don’t feel comfortable coming to me for help, but they’ve gone to my community service workers or my student assistants,” Carmichael said. âOur reality is that we need to make sure that all students have equitable access to security services. “
Galick agreed. In her experience, most members of the UO community feel safe approaching uniformed police officers, she said. But the agency must “reach people from different walks of life,” Galick added.
âIt is our responsibility to meet people where they are,â she said.
As community service workers and their vehicles become more and more mainstream, Manu and Galick have a similar message to members of the UO community.
âLet us know and get to know us,â Galick said.
Manu added: “We are here for your safety.”
–By Saul Hubbard, University Communications