OLR Research Report


By: Duke Chen, Associate Analyst


Are there any public universities with similar student enrollment as UConn that do not have their own independent police force?


We were able to identify only Oregon State University (OSU) and Portland State University (PSU) as public four-year institutions of higher learning with more than 15,000 students that do not have their own independent police force. OSU is policed by the Oregon State Police and PSU is policed by the Portland Police Bureau. In addition, both have their own public safety departments which employ public safety officers, but they are not considered full “peace officers” and do not carry guns and cannot perform certain law enforcement functions.

According to a 2004-05 Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, only three out of 152 public universities with 15,000 or more students did not have their own sworn police force (available at: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cle0405.pdf). In 2012, the University of Oregon formed its own campus police. Until the fall of 2011, Oregon law did not allow any state university to have its own police force. SB 405 gave the Oregon State Board of Higher Education authority to allow campuses in the Oregon University System to establish their own police departments.


OSU contracts with Oregon State Police to provide a police presence on campus. They are responsible for, among other things, law enforcement, criminal investigations, traffic enforcement, accident response, crowd control, and crime prevention. Officers have full police powers to enforce all state laws and have primary jurisdiction on all OSU properties. (For more information on Oregon State Police, see http://oregonstate.edu/dept/security/department-information.)

The Oregon State Police University Patrol Office has 10 officers and provides these law enforcement services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The University Patrol Office is supported by the state police's special police services when needed (e.g., detectives, arson investigators, forensic services, and explosive disposal). The office works collaboratively with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies (e.g., Corvallis Police Department, Benton County Sheriff's Office, Oregon Liquor Control, and FBI).

In addition, OSU has eight public safety officers that patrol the campus and are responsible for campus protection and safety. (For more information on PSOs, see http://oregonstate.edu/dept/security/dps-staff.)


Portland Police Bureau has law enforcement jurisdiction over all of Portland, including PSU. Unlike OSU, the Portland police do not have a special unit that is assigned specifically to PSU. The PSU public safety office has 17 security guards that patrol the campus and provide emergency response and emergency campus dispatching 24 hours a day, seven days a week. (For more information on PSU public safety, see http://www.pdx.edu/cpso/.)

Although public safety officers are not considered full “peace officers,” state law authorizes them to (1) stop and frisk for weapons and (2) make certain probable cause arrests, when acting in the course of their employment (i.e., illegal acts on campus) (Or. Rev. Stat. 352.385). Major offenses (e.g., aggravated assault, robbery, or auto theft) that occur on campus are reported to Portland police for a joint investigation.

According to PSU's website, there are discussions on whether the university should create its own police force. Currently, if there is a sexual assault or other serious crime that public safety officers cannot investigate, it could take several hours for Portland police to arrive (if it is not a crime in progress). PSU's public safety office contends that if it had its own police, these officers would have more specific training and could respond faster to emergencies than the Portland police (http://www.pdx.edu/news/portland-mercury-cops-campus-psu-may-create-its-own-police-force). In 2013, PSU's president assembled a task force on whether the public safety office should become a fully sworn police department (http://www.pdx.edu/cpso/2013TFCS). So far, the task force has not made its recommendations or findings public.