In the summer of 2016, Kaylee Sawyer was approached by a Central Oregon Community College campus security officer at night.
He dressed like a police officer. His vehicle looked like a law enforcement vehicle. He was, though, pretend police.
He offered her a ride. She got in. There was a barrier between the front and back seat and locking doors. The security officer could seal her in.
He drove her to a parking lot. They struggled. He raped and killed her.
Edwin Lara plead guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. But there is unfinished business to try to prevent such an incident from happening again. On Friday, the Oregon Legislature heard testimony on Kaylee’s Law.
Kaylee’s Law would make it clear that campus security and private security for institutions of higher learning should have vehicles equipped with GPS, include video cameras to record what happens in the vehicle; be clearly marked as campus security; and do not have cages, red and blue lights like police cars, or bumpers to ram other vehicles.
Under the legislative proposal, a nationwide criminal background check would be required of staff performing campus security. Campus security would be required to inform a law enforcement agency promptly whenever they perform a “citizen’s arrest.”
The law also spells out that campus security staff do not have the authority to stop and frisk people.
Before Sawyer was killed, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel and Bend Police Chief Jim Porter complained about how campus security was operating.
What got their attention, in part, was when COCC botched an investigation in 2015 of a COCC employee who apparently set a cellphone to record in a women’s restroom on campus. He was not prosecuted.
COCC did make changes after Sawyer was killed. It changed the lights on its vehicles. It changed the markings on the side of its vehicles. It has also temporarily had its security stop making citizen’s arrests and has forbidden the use of handcuffs.
The debate, though, between law enforcement and COCC over what its campus security can or should do continues.
Kaylee’s Law clarifies issues for campus security. But many of the same problems also occur with private security guards. Legislators should, at least, pass Kaylee’s Law.