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Cops Off Campus Kick-Off

Eric Howanietz cops off campus campus

ASUO insider reveals Student Activity Fees funding police surveillance through Duck Rides

Cops Off Campus launched their November 4th kickoff meeting to a packed lecture hall at UO. The Group has recently changed names from Disarm UO to Cops Off Campus (COC) to support a larger police abolitionist movement unfolding across the region. Despite this regional merger the group still has much of the grassroots character of its previous iteration as Disarm UO. Turn over in the group from student graduations appear to have only temporarily hindered the group and it has begun a pivot toward a more open and public organization. Organizers emphasize that when the group took off during the 2020 George Floyd uprising there was a determined effort to cement the group’s mission as an abolitionist, anti-racist, and anti- capitalist group. This appears to have been well thought out in a series of detailed statements the group presented at the beginning of the Nov 4th meeting. This has also meant that the group has rejected reformist proposals and dialogue with UOPD administration, such as those led by the Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO).

The narrative that COC presents shows how the creation of the UOPD in 2011 is in no way a longstanding institution of UO that cannot be dismantled or reversed. The UOPD’s inception coincided with a broad Neo liberal restructuring that occurred across campus at that same time and emphasized the interest of private donors and corporate partnerships. This overall move towards privatization even restructured the Universities’ governing body the Board of Trustees. Despite overwhelming student opposition to the creation of the UOPD, the Oregon Senate passed SB 405 with heavy lobbying from corporate funded PACs and wealthy donors leading the charge. The ultimate goal of Cops off Campus is abolition of police. But they note that the UOPD currently has no civilian review board and no formal complaint process, giving UOPD broad unchecked powers in its jurisdiction.

Even more worrying is that the UOPD arrests and uses force against black people at a rate roughly five times relative to population, according to COC’s literature. UOPD has also been involved in an alarming number of police shootings of people of color, including the 2019 killing of Eliborio Rodriguez. One serious issue that Cops Off Campus is currently working to change is the UOPD’s aggressive takeover of the former Campus Safe Rides, now called Duck Rides. Safe Rides was initially envisioned as branch of the UO Women’s Center with a mission of preventing sexual violence on campus. Safe Rides operated independently for years but in 2018 was facing operational difficulty and a partnership with UOPD was set in motion to relieve staffing and vehicle maintenance issues. Soon after this partnership began the already underpaid staff was faced with police domination of what was originally envisioned as a collective feminist empowerment organization. Dashcams were installed in Safe Ride vehicles and UOPD began to use Safe Ride as what it termed, “a second pair of eyes on campus.” This has led to dashcam footage being used as evidence by police. UOPD now sits in on all Safe Rides (now Duck Rides) meetings and the once devoted staff now worry that the organization has strayed from its community mission.

In a bombshell dropped by a source inside ASUO at the Nov 4th Cops Off Campus meeting, it was revealed that 90% of Duck Rides is funded by “I-Fees” directly paid for by students. The implication of this is that student activity fees (I-Fees) are now directly paying for a branch of the UOPD and police surveillance on campus. In the coming weeks COC will be releasing an extensive zine which details the problematic relationship between UOPD and the recently renamed Duck Rides.

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