Secrecy about UO Police

1/7/2011: Mat Wolf of the ODE has a good story about UO VP Frances Dyke’s efforts to convert our Department of Public Safety to an armed police force. We’ve written before about the scandals involving the two past DPS directors. Back in 2008 Daily Emerald reporter Ryan Knutson won a prize for this expose of DPS spending priorities:

The former interim director of DPS, Richard Turkiewicz, told three officers last summer they couldn’t attend a $120 training session on finding non-violent resolutions to encounters with people with mental health issues. …

But Turkiewicz approved spending $1,826.50 on himself and $1,554.99 for another manager to attend a four-day parking and golfing conference in Tampa, Fla. in May 2007….

Frances Dyke, vice president for finance and administration, approved Turkiewicz’s trip. She declined to comment on the trip or Turkiewicz’s need for attending, but did say that “directors can’t neglect their own professional development because they won’t stay cutting edge if they do.”

Ms Dyke hired Turkiewicz after he had left FSU over his role in the accidental shooting death of one of his officers, by another police officer, during an attempt to bust underage student drinkers at the Fiesta Bowl. If Dyke told anyone at UO about this incident, it was well hidden.

Despite her efforts to keep her new DPS director on the cutting edge, UO didn’t promote Turkiewicz to the permanent job – instead we fired him and hired Kevin Williams, from the LAPD. Williams didn’t last long either, and no one in charge wanted to explain why. From the 2009 ODE article by Hannah Hoffman:

DPS details under wraps; Dyke cites privacy laws
University will not release details of Williams’ transfer, Tripp’s promotion 

When the University gives an employee a new position but does not renew his or her contract, essentially firing the employee, the administration has virtually no obligation to explain why to the public. This was evidenced during the recent shift in the director of the Department of Public Safety. On March 9, Doug Tripp became the director and Kevin Williams, who had held the position since August 2007, was transferred to a different department. The administration announced the move only in an e-mail to staff, faculty and administration.

This issue seems to be a goldmine for UO’s student reporters. Now we have Mat Wolf’s article today:

Based on information gathered from a public information request released to the Emerald on Nov. 17, the University Public Records Office did release documents that may have addressed internal University discussions concerning the liability issues that could face the University in an instance of an inappropriate use of force by a potential sworn and armed campus police force.

The documents returned to the Emerald were heavily redacted and leave room for interpretation.

According to the documents, an internal memo did pass between University President Richard Lariviere’s Faculty Advisory Committee on Oct. 17.

It is not clear if these conversations involved Lariviere directly, or only Provost Jim Bean who was acting president at the time because of Lariviere’s surgery and his subsequent recovery. Francis Dyke was also named in the memo.

The only faculty advisory committee member mentioned by name in the documents was English Department Professor Warren Ginsberg. Ginsberg declined to speak about his involvement in the memo and cited confidentiality restrictions placed on him by his membership on the FAC.

McDermed said that a discussion about allowing DPS to use weapons on campus had not been discussed, but the documents obtained through Nov. 17 public records request show a date of Oct. 17.

In addition to the FAC meeting, another set of documents released on Nov. 17 seemed to indicate proposed budget items, but with the actual cost and funding for those items redacted.

The secrecy continues. If we are going to have armed police, let’s be open about the costs and the benefits. Instead, UO is hiding this info, redacting documents, and refusing to say what is happening in closed door meetings.

The truth is that the Police business is not the business UO should be in. Let’s do what OSU does, and contract with existing police forces for those very few situations where an armed response is needed.

And meanwhile, it’s way past time for Provost James Bean to do his job and fire his VP, Frances Dyke.

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