The safety of our employees, students, patients and visitors is of the utmost importance to me. Following recent campus shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois universities, OHSU has been reviewing its readiness to respond to a similar critical incident, including whether we should have an armed presence on campus. This is a sensitive issue for me as well as others and I wanted to get input from a variety of stakeholders.
I appointed a public task force to consider our current ability to respond to a critical incident and to make recommendations about additional steps necessary to ensure the continued safety of the OHSU community.
The Critical Incident Readiness Task Force includes employees, students, representatives from local law enforcement and government, and Portland-area residents, among other stakeholders. During the past four months, the 23 member group heard testimony from internal stakeholders, including the OHSU public safety director and external emergency communications and law enforcement professionals, including Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer and a representative from the University of Iowa, which recently decided to arm its officers. The task force also heard testimony from the public and viewed the results of more than 200 internal and external responses to an online survey.
After extensive discussion, the task force recommended OHSU pursue having an armed presence on campus.
The task force recommends one of two options to reach this objective: 1) seeking the authority to employ its own armed campus police officers, or 2) contracting with a local police department to provide armed officers on campus. This recommendation is contingent on any armed officers having completed training, including attending the state police academy, supplemental campus public safety training, cultural awareness and critical incident training, which includes techniques for intervening with individuals who may have a mental illness. In addition OHSU would establish an official review process for any use of a firearm, and a commitment to ongoing training and professional development for campus police officers.
The task force also recommended OHSU pursue updating the statute governing OHSU public safety officers to clarify their roles and authorities regardless of whether we move forward with pursuing an armed presence.
This is only a recommendation and at this point I have not decided whether this is the right path for OHSU. I will take these recommendations to the OHSU Board of Directors and executive leadership team before a final decision is made.
I want to thank all of you who have contributed to this thoughtful process. I understand this is a sensitive and emotionally charged issue. Your opinions and robust discussion will help me as I ponder this difficult decision. I will continue to share information with you as we move forward with this process.
Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A.