EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- The University of Oregon's Department of Public Safety has officially changed its name to the University of Oregon Police Department, but the transition to a full-on campus police force is far from over.
The department announced its name change this week, nearly a year after the Oregon State Board of Higher Education officially authorized the formation of the campus police force. Oregon's public universities are now allowed to create campus police forces through a law passed by the Oregon Legislature in June 2010.
While the University of Oregon Police Department (UOPD) sounds more official in terms of law enforcement capacity, for now UOPD is still operating in essentially the same capacity as the Department of Public Safety. The transition to a total police department will take about six years to complete.
There are some changes to note right now though, mostly visual ones noticeable in the officers' presence.
UOPD now has eleven state-certified officially sworn officers. By law, the officers have the same capacity and authority as any other police officer in Oregon.
The police officers also have different uniforms, wearing black shirts and pants. The University’s remaining DPS officers wear dark blue uniforms.
UOPD officers also have different shoulder patches and chest badges, clearly marked with the word POLICE.
While the sworn officers have the same authority as any other state-certified Oregon police officer, UOPD officers are not carrying any different weapons and they're not carrying guns.
UOPD is still seeking permission to carry guns. The department says without guns, their capacity as a police force will remain limited. Without guns, UOPD says it won’t do certain arrests, traffic stops, prisoner transports or serve warrants.
"If you start to reduce the things that you can do by not being armed, by not having the proper equipment, we're in the same position. We're kind of a half-abled department who can help with some things, but we're still needing to call in EPD for a lot of services,” says Kelly McIver, spokesman for the University of Oregon Police Department.
Come January 2013, UO Police will start talking with students about the possibility of adding guns. Ultimately, the choice is up to UO administrators and the State Board of Higher Education, which may make a decision likely in the spring of 2013.
UOPD’s eleven sworn officers are mostly administrative. Nearly all daily patrols are conducted by the remaining sixteen public safety officers. Eventually, UO Police will phase those out and have 26 sworn officers over the six year transition period.