Campus resource officer discussed at town hall

University of Washington Bothell Chancellor Wolf Yeigh and Cascadia College President Eric Murray discussed the new campus resource officer during a joint town hall meeting Tuesday at the North Creek Events Center.

The commissioned officer from the Bothell Police Department will be based on campus starting in January. The position fills the vacancy left by Sgt. Cham Kao when he left his role as a commissioned officer to lead the campus safety department. 

Murray and Yeigh said the new officer will share campus values of respect, inclusivity and multicultural competence. A big part of the job will be active listening, community-building and investing in one-on-one relationships. She will also undergo additional training to fully integrate with the campus community. 

Both leaders along with Dean of Student Life George Theo, Campus Safety Director Cham Kao and Interim Vice Chancellor of Administration Ruth Johnston took questions from the group of about 100 attendees after a table conversation exercise. 

Murray said the joint campus will benefit from its ongoing relationship with the Bothell Police Department and having an officer who can respond immediately to events. The officer will work with the campus safety department, which serves both institutions.

There had been at least one UW police officer on loan to the Bothell campus since 2011. In the fall of 2015, UW Bothell and Cascadia College each formed task forces to review campus safety and present options for filling the vacancy for a commissioned officer. One option recommended by the UW Police Department for the growing campus was a precinct station with more than eight commissioned officers – a solution that is not aligned with this campus' culture. In addition, Yeigh said this option would have cost more than $2 million, so a decision was delayed for more suitable options.

Yeigh and Murray acknowledged that some students view police as a threat instead of reassurance. 

“We understand there are many who fear a police presence, due to negative interactions in their own lives with police, as well as a growing national awareness of instances of abuse of police power,” Yeigh and Murray said in a letter before the meeting to the Associated Students of the University of Washington Bothell.

It takes a special officer to walk that line, and leadership from both institutions believe they have found the right mix of cultural competency and conflict resolution in Bothell Officer Louise Muro. A 19-year police veteran, Muro served most recently as a resource officer at Bothell High School where she was highly regarded for her calm and compassionate demeanor.

Kao says with her extensive experience and passion for community engagement, he expects Muro to be seen as a role model and sought out for friendly advice.

Two of the few students in attendance expressed concern that many students were unable to attend the town hall due to final exams. In answer to students wanting more of a voice in the decision process, campus leaders committed to increased transparency and more opportunities for open dialogue around campus safety and other important issues. 

One of the opportunities announced by Yeigh and Murray is the formation of a joint Advisory Council for Campus Safety. Among other responsibilities, students, faculty and staff who serve on this council will identify training needs for the campus resource officer while helping with communications and building trust. In the coming weeks, members of the campus community will learn how they can serve on the council and contribute to its charge.