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SALEM, OR -- A bill named for a woman killed in 2016 by a Central Oregon Community College campus security guard got its first public hearing Wednesday, in Salem. Members of Kaylee Sawyer’s family testified in favor of SB-576, as well as Bend’s Police Chief and Deschutes County's District Attorney. The bill regulates what campus security guards can do, wear and drive. It's co-sponsored by Bend State Senator Tim Knopp, who says it would require national background checks and enable law enforcement to share information about job applicants, "And, we need to make sure that the vehicles that are chosen by campus security include GPS or cameras and we certainly need to prohibit cages and things like that, that ultimately led to Kaylee’s demise." He says the law needs to create a "bright line" of distinction between campus security guards and sworn law enforcement. 

 

COCC Responds to Kaylee's Law Proposal (12/14/2018)


Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum also supports Kaylee’s Law, and told the Senate Judiciary Committee she hears concerns from campus public safety officers, "The contention is that our students will not respond to campus safety officers, if they are distinguishable from law enforcement; they will be taken less seriously and that this, in turn, will make our campuses less safe. But please allow me to turn this question around: If your authority rests on the mistaken assumption that you are a law enforcement officer when you are not, is increased safety truly the result?" 

 

Eric Wood is a public safety officer for Corbin University. He asked lawmakers to consider how passing the bill could hamper the work he and his colleagues do, "These concerns have made many students who have read this bill feel unsafe." His partner, Isaac Helend asked that amendments be made to ensure campus officers have the proper resources. However, the heads of Western Oregon (WOU) and Oregon State University (OSU) public safety support Kaylee's law. WOU's Rebecca Chiles says her office already follows many of the policies outlined in the bill, "I will always be in favor of new or updated policies, processes, laws, etc. that make our campuses safer; who wouldn’t? We owe it to my children, to yours and especially to Kaylee and the entire Sawyer family."

 

Central Oregon Community College student Oz Smith told the committee, "Not all officers will abuse their power. But, students deserve more than luck to rely on during interactions with public safety officers. Our students’ lives should not be dependent on how an individual officer, with little accountability and resources equivalent to that of sworn police officers, chooses to conduct themself."

 

Deschutes County D.A. John Hummel and BPD Chief Jim Porter testified that despite multiple meetings, Central Oregon Community College has failed to address concerns about campus security guards conducting traffic stops and investigations, and generally acting like police. The say COCC officials have told them the law does not require the school change its policies. 

 

Image: Bend Police Chief Jim Porter presented the Senate Judiciary Committee with photos showing the similarities between campus security patrol cars and uniforms and those used by sworn police officers. The lower-left "officer" is Edwin Lara, convicted of killing Kaylee Sawyer in 2016; the vehicle he used to commit the murder is shown in the image to his left.

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