Shanon Anderson: serving community as new OSU Corvallis campus chief of police

On Dec. 14, Shanon Anderson was officially announced as the new Chief of Police and AVP for public safety at OSU. Shanon Anderson previously worked for the Seattle Police department starting in 1992, and worked as a lieutenant beginning in 2016.

Angela Tam, News Contributor

This is a Q&A with Shanon Anderson, the new chief of police and associate vice president for public safety for Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus.

Anderson will be working closely with the university’s future in-house police department. She was hired on Dec. 14, 2020, before the university’s contract with the Oregon State Police ended on Dec. 31 after 31 years of service.

Anderson and the Corvallis campus police department began serving the OSU community on Jan. 1. The police department will operate within OSU’s Department of Public Safety.

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What are some reasons that Oregon State University has a separate police force when there is the Corvallis Police Department?

University police departments are not new. For example, OSU had its own licensed police force prior to the mid-1980s, at which time I understand law enforcement services began being provided on campus under a contract with the Oregon State Police. I understand OSU leaders have decided that it is important to have campus public safety and licensed law enforcement in keeping with the mission and values of the university and the OSU community. This may not be the case if campus policing was provided by a city or county – and managed by the policies of a city council or county commission. As well, a university would want to have its own police department for the same reasons that a municipality would want to have its own police department. Doing so allows officers to have a consistent presence and not be reassigned or redistributed for other needs that may arise elsewhere. It also allows the officers to become part of the university community and become invested in the success of the community and the success of students, faculty and staff.

I am proud to have joined the OSU community, and I believe that OSU community members will find that all police officers, public safety staff and employees within the Department of Public Safety feel similarly.

There are some student groups on campus that disagree with the formation of OSU’s police force and have created a petition to defund the department. Do you believe that you will be able to alleviate their concerns surrounding the police force? Do you have any plans to address them in a public statement?

I look forward to working with all members of the university community and listening to their viewpoints and concerns.  I appreciate the diversity of opinions.  I am a reflective person, and I believe that my plans for transparency and community involvement will alleviate concerns for some, but ultimately, each individual will decide for themselves if their concerns have been addressed. 

I feel it is important that community members take notice of OSU’s efforts to increase crisis and mental health services on campus, as well as work underway to engage with city, county and medical service partners to consider how to collaboratively expand crisis and mental health services in the off-campus community. OSU is committed to offering public safety, licensed law enforcement and crisis and mental services that serve the university community in complementary ways.

It’s our understanding that the police chief is receiving a salary that’s about double what other campus police chiefs receive. Is this true? 

No, that is not accurate. When comparing salary information there are many things to consider, such as skills and experience of the person employed; the duties of the position; the size of the agency being managed; the size, complexity, and expectations of the university, as well as the physical location of the university. In the case of my position, I am not only the Chief of Police on OSU’s Corvallis campus, but I also serve as the associate vice president for public safety for all of Oregon State University’s statewide operations.

In the Town Hall meeting that was held before the police chief was officially hired, comments were closed to various members of the OSU community at large. Why were comments and questions closed to the community at the time?

I appreciated the highly competitive hiring process that the University used to consider and challenge candidates who applied for this position.  I am unsure as to which Town Hall meeting this is referring to. Candidates were not part of the preparation and planning for the Town Hall meetings. I know that during the finalist meeting that was open to students, faculty and staff, questions were posted in real-time for the candidates to answer.

Do you plan on enforcing COVID-19 guidelines? If so, what will that look like?

This pandemic is tragic, and my heart hurts for those who have lost friends and loved ones.  It is all our responsibility to try and be safe and take precautions. Other departments at OSU are also responsible for educating and enforcing the university’s COVID-19 policies. We will work with university partners to remind and share information about policies of the university during this difficult time.  If necessary, enforcement matters can be referred to other OSU departments, such as with the offices of Student Conduct or Human Resources.  From what I have seen thus far, I don’t believe that we will have a large-scale issue. I have seen community members being very responsible when it comes to adhering to COVID-19 policies.

We have heard that there will be around 20 or so police officers on campus; is this true? Will they be primarily stationed around the Radiation Center, or will they be interacting with other buildings on campus?

Yes, our staffing model is currently set for a department of about 20 sworn police officers. We also will continue to have non-sworn public safety officers, dispatchers, and other valuable support staff. This staffing plan is consistent with past public safety levels that the OSU community has been served by in the recent past. We continue to recruit, hire and train new staff and we are continuing to include students and staff in our interview, selection and training process.  This process was put into place prior to my arrival at OSU.  I believe that the depth of student and staff involvement is unique and valuable, and I plan to continue to support this process.

How will police officers typically interact with students, if at all?

I expect OSU’s police officers and public safety staff to be people who enjoy other people; engage easily in conversation with community members; and are committed to serve and immediately strive to protect others, especially when danger exists.  I would expect OSU community members will find the university’s police officers to be friendly people, who will engage in casual conversation. But from time to time [they] may also need to be firm and yet fair when taking enforcement action.  I would expect OSU community members will find that the entire Department of Public Safety is committed to professional public safety and policing services that serve the university community and foster partnerships with students, faculty, staff and community members.