The Transformation of Community Safety

When current Director of Community Safety, Gary Granger, came to Reed, he had a difficult task ahead of him. Reed was lurching in the wake of the deaths of two students due to heroin doses and was being forced to reevaluate how its drug and alcohol policy provided for the safety of the students. 

“After the second death, which happened just before I got here,” says Granger, “Colin Diver and Mike Brody were summoned downtown to talk to U.S. District Attorney and the Portland Police Chief. The attorney said, ‘we can help you out with that drug problem at Reed.’” Diver responded that he believed Reed had the problem under control and could continue to be semi-autonomous while remaining inside the law and providing for the safety of its students. Many of the changes Community Safety has made over the years have been to demonstrate that Reed takes the law seriously and is committed to providing students with a safe environment where they can succeed. 

“I talked to some upperclassmen who had been around for a few years—who were Olde Reed compared to me—when I got here and tried to get an idea of how things operated,” says Granger. “CSOs would come by and say, ‘hey, I’ll be back in a few minutes and whatever I see is what I see.’ The CSO would come back in a few minutes and things would be cleaned up and everything would be fine. I looked at them and I said ‘those days are over. If you’re smoking weed your name is going to be taken down and you’re going to get a letter from the Dean’s office.’” 

Granger says that he decided to come to Reed because he was looking for something smaller, with more field work and community, compared to his past job as Director of Security at OHSU where he was overseeing various departments. Some of Granger’s friends expressed skepticism about his change of setting, with one Reed alum from the ’90s saying, “Oh yeah, CSOs ride their bikes around and smoke weed with the students,” but Granger thought he had found something different. “It allowed me to stay in Portland and do something difficult and engaging that I could also be a part of—4/20, handing out donuts to students, that’s fun.” 

The laissez-faire practices of the CSOs before Granger have changed into a more professional approach to community safety. Granger has also begun keeping much closer record of AOD violations, placing color-coded pins on a map of Reed for each year he’s been here in order to get an understanding of where students are most often using drugs. “Tracking violations was very hit-and-miss before I got here,” says Granger, whose tracking serves as evidence to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) that Community Safety is upholding the law. 

When Granger worked at OHSU he developed good relationships with many police officers. “It comes down to the trust level,” says Granger. “The police don’t come here. They trust me. They know me.” He says of the arrangement between the PPB and Reed, “In essence, it says that if there isn’t a felony level drug crime we will handle it at the school. We will have students go through our processes if they are in violation of the law. Matt [Wagenknecht, PPB Lieutenant for the Central Precinct] and I have coffee all the time, every pin in that map is an example to him that we’re serious.” Community Safety is required to report felony-level drug charges to the PPB, says Granger, “but let’s say I find somebody with a few ounces of weed, I’ll send him the report. Most of the time he asks us how we’re handling it and...they trust us to do the right thing on our own.” 

While Granger’s presence has provided Community Safety with a more legal backing, their work is still informed by the Honor Principle. “We use ideas from the Honor Principle in almost everything we do,” says Granger. “The language we use, CSOs engage people in an honorable way. I don’t like the word ‘enforce’. I’ll often say, this is informal mediation under the auspices of the honor principle. As long as everyone in the community subscribes to the idea then it works. If a student says, ‘I can take the Fifth Amendment, I don’t have to talk to you,’ we also have the right to actually arrest you or go into your room without asking if we think there are drugs in there. We have the right to call the police if you won’t tell us who you are. Those are very violent reactions. We don’t do those things because you agree to talk to us, and we agree to work it out at Reed to the maximum extent possible. Most students understand the idea.” 

“This year, my fourth year, I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the place. I haven’t changed my fundamental idea,” he continues. “The honor principle is something that resonates with me, so if I can do my job and help the students who come here graduate then that’s pretty satisfying.” Granger is now on the President’s senior staff, which he believes has enabled him to understand the financial model and the admissions model in order to inform how Community Safety operates. Granger says, “I don’t think anybody came to Reed thinking that they chose an easy option. My idea of Reed hasn’t changed, but my ability to engage with what goes on at Reed has broadened.” 

Although there has been a paradigm shift in Community Safety’s engagement with students, they are trying not to lose touch with their roots. “The paradigm shift was ‘never do nothing,’ but we were trying to figure out what we were going to do,” says Granger of his first couple years at Reed. “It was a paradigm shift to always write their name down and always take their stuff away. We stabilized the process at the end of the 2011–2012 year. Going into the 2012–2013 academic year we didn’t make any major changes.” 

There had been no need for a medical amnesty policy before Granger arrived because few AODs were given, but because of the increased engagement, SSDP approached a medical amnesty policy needed to be put in place. It was established at the beginning of his second year. Directives also didn’t exist, but they serve many purposes for Community Safety’s new approach. “They serve as training documents and as a way for students to know what’s going on,” says Granger. “They also serve as a liability shield. Say someone was super high and out of control on acid and a CSO felt as though they had to be held back; without these things documented, there would be a lot of liability.” 

“Drug use is not benign,” says Granger. “There’s a risk associated with any drug. We have a responsibility to follow the law in good faith, but we get to decide how we do it and we have a responsibility to educate the students about what it means to make certain choices. Spring/Fall this year was awful. There are consequences with those types of choices. If a student dies at Renn Fayre and it is drug related, whatever good we’ve done over the last four years to get us out from under that idea is gone. The New York Times would pick it up, Willamette Week would be back. They’ll say ‘well Reed tried but they didn’t quite do it.’ It doesn’t matter how many pins I put in the map.” 

Granger is aware that many people view the changes in Community Safety as threatening what makes Reed the place that it is, but he responds with, “I like people pushing back. The dynamic tension, the intellectual tension, is good for Reed. Students have a very legitimate and helpful role.” There has also been tension within Community Safety. 

“We have directives now, we have expectations around how the CSOs do things,” says Granger. “There’s some self-selection. Not everybody’s going to feel good about the direction in terms of professionalization of the department. What we’re doing now is a lot of internal stuff that you don’t see. If you’re not meeting [our] guidelines, there will be a certain point where you’re not an employee anymore…I have to manage the business as an employer, and I have high expectations. I want every student interaction with a CSO to be the same. I want students to be treated with respect and know that the CSO they’re working with has a good understanding of the Honor Principle.” 

Some of the better-known CSOs, who had developed a level of trust with the student body, have left the force this year. Granger describes those types of relationships as “the core of us doing good work,” but as someone in charge of running Community Safety responsibly, says that obligations to Community Safety have to come first. “If the community knows us and believes in what we’re doing that helps us do our job,” he says. “But there’s more to being a CSO than people liking you. No matter how many donuts I give away, there are still going to be people who don’t like what I’m doing. The trading cards were a way in which I was attempting to have people connect as people. But that doesn’t mean a CSO shouldn’t be doing their job. I expect and require that people are going to do their job.” 

However, at least one of those CSOs who wasn’t ‘doing their job’ believes that the ‘professionalization’ of 28 West has brought the force away from its foundational mission, and that Granger’s reforms have violated community bonds. “When I started as a CSO,” he explained, “I was explicitly told that my role was to take care of the students, to ensure that they were healthy and safe so they may graduate. During my time at Reed, I saw that role change dramatically under the leadership of Gary Granger. Our relationship with the students shifted from being active and trustworthy partners to being at odds with the students.” 

The CSO with whom we spoke acknowledges the unavoidable pressures placed on 28 West by the federal government in the wake of Reed’s two heroin-related deaths. However, he claims that under Granger’s leadership, “socializing with students and forming bonds” has in fact been discouraged outright: “In the minds of management, being seen as being too friendly to students could mean a CSO was turning a blind eye.” In fact, friendliness and lenience have been used as internal boogeymen. Officers have been put “under a spotlight” if they reported too many unattended AODs, since multiple unattended substance reports are now seen as a sign of possible cover-ups for student violations. By the time he left the force, “many good CSOs were being scrutinized by management,” and he agreed that “it certainly seems the Reed rumor mill is not exaggerating” when people speak of a purge. 

Despite Gary Granger’s attempt to avoid a pendulum swing in departmental behavior, it is evident that some people are viewing the changes that way. While having all CSOs behave in the same way towards students does protect the school against external liability, detracting from the personal relationships CSOs have with students threatens to take the ‘community’ out of Community Safety. Before the AOD Review Panel was established a few years ago, the Judicial Board consistently ruled that the use of alcohol and marijuana was against policy but did not constitute an Honor Principle violation. It is the CSOs who adhere to the school’s foundational philosophy that have been placed under pressure or forced out of the force. Policy, not Honor, is now the foundation of Community Safety interactions. It is a change worth keeping in mind as we negotiate this dramatic shift in campus policing.