New law means changes to Lane Community College, Umpqua Community College security teams
A new law signed by Gov. Kate Brown in May will mean changes to Lane Community College’s public safety department, as well as campus security at colleges throughout the state.
Kaylee’s Law, or Senate Bill 576, is named after Kaylee Sawyer, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a Central Oregon Community College security guard in 2016. The law went into effect immediately, as soon as the governor signed it. The bill had passed unanimously in the House and the Senate.
The law mandates that campus security officers can not look like law enforcement, including their uniforms and their vehicles. The officers must distinguish themselves as campus safety and not resemble police. That means no push bars in the front of the vehicles, no light bars on the top of the vehicles, no partition or “cage” between the front and back seats, and security uniforms must differ in color from other law enforcement agencies in the state. The vehicles must have GPS or use a recorded dispatch system so that the security officer’s location is known. Campus safety officers cannot pull vehicles over and must go through a national background check and psychological testing before being hired.
Colleges have until Jan. 1, 2020 to get into compliance.
The University of Oregon is exempt from the law because the University of Oregon is policed by their own state-certified police department. As sworn police officers, UOPD has all of the power of other police agencies in the state.
But Lane Community College was required to make some changes to its public safety department. New shirts, now in a LCC-colored light blue, and new vehicle logos debuted last month at the student Welcome Day on campus.
“Our hearts and minds are really with the Sawyer family and the community. It was a horrific event and it’s lived with us everyday,” said Brian Kelly, LCC vice president of college services. “So it’s something that’s very present in our minds and the state has done a lot of work to try to align public safety in community colleges with a more comprehensive vision. We’re completely on board.”
The reason LCC only had to make minor changes to its department is because the college already was meeting many of the provisions in Kaylee’s Law, Kelly said.
“We’ve been leaders in public safety. We were very early to have body cameras. We have always used dispatch. We’ve long done criminal background checks. We’ve implemented psychological testing. And we were doing these things long before Kaylee’s Law came along,” he said.
At Umpqua Community College, campus security also had to make a couple of changes, but nothing that they couldn’t live with, according to UCC Director of Facilities and Security Jess Miller. The security uniform changed to a polo shirt from the standard police officer uniform shirt the security team previously wore. Both shirts are tan. The former shirt held the UCC logo and had a place for a badge on it. The new one clearly states security on it, while also sporting the UCC logo.
Two campus patrol-style vehicles have been donated to the on-campus police reserve program, Miller said.
“We had two vehicles donated to us by the state after we had our shooting on campus,” Miller said. “Kate Brown had them donated, and we had them painted and wrapped with our security logo.”
The vehicles were used for periodic trips to UCC’s off-campus sites and were occasionally driven through the parking lots during the graveyard shift to make security’s presence known. But the vehicles weren’t regularly used, Miller said. So the cars have been passed on to the on-campus police program, while security now uses golf carts on campus and a pickup truck for transportation off site.
Overall, the change in the uniforms cost UCC around $1,500, and the department now is considered compliant.
At Oregon State University, the campus is policed by Oregon State Police and the on-campus security. Messages to the OSU security chief were not returned.
Kelly said LCC is on track and on time to be compliant with the law. The rebranding effort cost “several thousand dollars,” Kelly said, but some of that funding already was accounted for because the school has a uniform and vehicle expense every year anyway.
Rebranding the public safety vehicles cost about $6,000. The uniform change hasn’t been completely carried out, so that total is not yet available.
On the vehicles, the push bar on the front of the vehicle and the partition that separates the front and back seats had to be removed, a chore that was done in-house. Only some of the older public safety cars had those features and that is because the vehicles were purchased from law enforcement agencies at auction, according to public safety director Lisa Rupp. By policy, LCC public safety officers do not put passengers in the back of the vehicles, she added, so the partition has never been necessary.
“Lane Public Safety was already doing the great things to keep our campus safe and our students safe,” Rupp said.
The most common calls the LCC public safety department responds to include disruptive students, safety hazards and training. The public safety department trains quarterly and annually. They also offer training to others for sexual assault awareness, dating and domestic violence and self-defense. Those trainings are free to students, staff and the public.
The LCC public safety vehicles did not have the red and blue lights, which Kaylee’s Law eliminated, Rupp said. It also operates an around-the-clock dispatch, with a contract with the Lane County Sheriff’s Office on the weekend and overnight. LCC also has body cameras and in-car cameras, Rupp said.
The LCC vehicles also state, in reverse so it can be read in a rearview mirror, “LCC Campus Public Safety,” Rupp said, so that when a campus safety officer is driving behind another driver, there is no confusion that it is not a police officer, Rupp said.
“Personally, I would hope this would keep students safer and I believe having clear guidelines for all 17 community colleges in the state of Oregon is a step forward,” Kelly said. “It provides clarity, it provides vision and we are more than happy to be compliant with this vision.
“The safety of our students is something that’s very important for us. And something we think about every day.”
Follow Chelsea Deffenbacher on Twitter @ChelseaDeffenB. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.