The University of Oregon announced earlier this month that UOPD Chief Matthew Carmichael will be leaving at the end of the month. He will be taking the same job at Texas State University. Carmichael was brought in Sep. 2016. after the UO paid previous chief, Carolyn McDermed $46K to leave. This happening after more of the misbehavior in her department was brought to light, including her staff keeping a “bowl of dicks” list.
During his time as chief he received an influx of millions of dollars to his department. In the first year he joined his department had a budget of $5,380,703, fiscal year (FY) 2018 it went up to $6,307,358, FY19 it was $7,040,255, and FY20 at $7,390,135. It only went down in FY21 to $6,532,322, the first to start to during the pandemic.
In spring of this year the UOPD spent $62K for VR equipment supposedly to train them on de-escalation. In 2017, the UOPD, already armed with handguns for the last five years, acquired semi-auto rifles and TASERs. A couple years later it was found that the UOPD had misclassifying TASERs and did not have records for all of its guns.
In 2017, the Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) moved Safe Ride and Designated Driver Shuttle under UOPD. Meant to be inclusive and available especially in times of crisis, would now potentially deter certain students from using the service. Safe Ride and Designated Driver Shuttle have recently converged into the one Safe Ride and there has been renewed interest on its ties to the UOPD.
Carmichael was clearly brought on in-part to help with PR like he was brought on at UC Davis after its pepper spray incident. In 2019, the chief tried to shore up support by giving away free pizza. In one of the more disgusting PR plays, the UOPD started holding “Coffee with a Cop” less than a week after one of their brothers at the Eugene Police Department shot and killed former UO student Charlie Landeros.
In addition the UOPD was able to land multiple glowing pieces on its “bomb-sniffing” dog in the Daily Emerald, serving its secondary purpose, if not its first.
But, as the saying goes, a pig in lipstick is still a pig. UOPD officer Troy Phillips was found to use excessive use of force and lied in an official report about his stop of Eliborio Rodrigues Jr., who was later killed by EPD. Phillips was later fired after the internal investigation on him came out. Sterling Baraquio, a person of color, was held at gunpoint by the UOPD in 2018 while he was working for KWVA radio station as a DJ in the EMU. The police’s suspect was a 6 foot white male they said was trying to break into the Tykeson Hall construction with bolt cutters. UOPD cleared themselves of any wrongdoing.
Earlier this year former UOPD community service officer Alexander Lawrence Reasoner was charged with sexual abuse.
In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd their were calls far and wide to disarm and disband the UOPD. AAUP Oregon, a statewide coalition of faculty unions, called on Gov. Brown to disarm the campus university police in Jun. 2020. The ASUO Executive Branch, along with over a dozen student groups sent a letter to Pres. Schill, Chief Carmichael, and Chief Resilience Officer and Associate Vice President André Le Duc calling on them disarm UOPD, recognizing it as only a first step. Disarm UO, which is now known as Cops Off Campus UO, was formed that summer demanding a Disarming, Defunding, and Dismantling of the UOPD.
In response, Pres. Schill and Chief Carmichael announced relatively tame “reforms” in Nov. of last year. The thrust of it lying in a reduction of about a seven armed police officers and the adding nine new unarmed so-called community service officers, who would also be under the helm of the UOPD. So, coming out the other side the UOPD will actually be expanded.
“Schill’s shell game offers the illusion of a reduction in armed patrol officers, but as this campus has already seen, it is far easier to arm existing officers than it is to disarm them. All it would take is a memo from Chief Carmichael to Vice President Jamie Moffit for these nine new positions to convert to armed, sworn officers.” writes then UO Ethnic Studies Professor Michael Hames-García in an opinion piece for the Daily Emerald.
The university’s own argument of having its own police department is being able to act fast. In recent weeks a man was able to enter the Knight Law Center with a gun, pull a fire alarm, move a student over to the Hamilton dorm, and detain them and another person for two hours. It wasn’t until after this and not without Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Springfield Police, and the Junction Police that the hostages were freed.
Hames-Garcia goes on to say, “We want to reduce the size of the UOPD, to disarm it and, ultimately, to dismantle it to make room for alternatives that effectively address the problems of our society: poverty, houselessness, addiction, mental illness, racism, bigotry and violence.”