Earlier this summer, four Oregon State Police troopers entered a coffee shop near Oregon State University and refused to wear masks, showing a disregard for those they protect and serve.
Weeks later, the law enforcement agency is making things worse with a tight-lipped response to the scandal.
If this is OSP’s idea of community policing, perhaps the campus is better off without the agency. More on that in a bit, but first, a bit of a recap.
On the morning of July 2, the troopers entered Allan’s Coffee and Teas on Northwest Monroe Avenue. (Some old-timers might recognize this as The Beanery.)
According to shop employees, the troopers came into the business and were asked by an employee to comply with the state order issued by Gov. Kate Brown that requires facial coverings in indoor spaces. The troopers refused to wear masks, with one questioning Brown’s authority and dropping an f-bomb to express his opinion of the governor.
We can only imagine a barista summoning the courage to ask police officers to follow the rules. The response must have been chilling. What is the employee going to do in this situation? Call the cops?
Video footage shows that after the exchange, the troopers sat down in the business and sipped their drinks.
OSP Superintendent Travis Hampton promised evidence of the agency’s commitment to accountability in the wake of this incident, but we’ll have to take his word for it.
There’s been an investigation, but OSP won’t release the results of the report.
We only know that the agency placed the potty-mouthed trooper on leave, and he has apparently been reassigned away from Corvallis.
Hopefully, OSP has learned from the incident and has trained all of its troopers better, but, again, we really don’t know, as the agency’s official response is to stonewall. No questions whatsoever because the coffee shop incident is a personnel matter. There’s nothing to talk about.
But the agency should explain the incident and its disciplinary actions a bit better. It also could have released information without disclosing the names of the troopers.
We expect state troopers to be held to a higher standard, but it isn't clear that's the case.
So OSP’s decision to remain silent regarding the coffee shop brouhaha leaves a bitter taste.
A complicating factor is a troubling arrest from October 2019 that came a short walk — or bike ride — from the coffee shop. A Black OSU student declined to show her identification to an OSP trooper, and, depending on your viewpoint, either fell to the ground or was forcefully taken down. She was arrested and taken to jail, but the Benton County District Attorney declined to prosecute the case as he determined no laws were broken. OSU and OSP faced a flurry of negative publicity.
Following that arrest, OSU and OSP terminated their relationship, effective the end of 2020. The school and the agency said the arrest wasn’t a cause of the separation and merely coincided with the mutual parting of ways.
The university is in the process of assembling its own armed campus security force. In what can’t be a great sign, the head of that fledgling police force submitted his resignation earlier this month.
We think that an armed police force is required for OSU, in part because of the large athletic events and the nuclear reactor on campus — as well as the rare serious crimes.
But now there are doubts that the new agency will be ready by Jan. 1, so OSU may once again have to contract with an outside agency. Instead of OSP, which may not want to return to campus even in the short term, perhaps OSU President F. King Alexander should sit down with the Corvallis Police Department. CPD already deals with issues connected to OSU’s student population, including house parties, intoxicated driving and, more recently, Black Lives Matter protests, which the department handled artfully.
If a need arises, and we’re only four months away, Alexander should consider CPD for campus law enforcement.
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