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Town Hall Focuses on Police Dept.

Mt. SAC's police chief on a panel
By Mike Taylor

December 05, 2017 - 03:24 PM

Campus-wide Town Hall meetings were held Nov. 29 to discuss the ongoing transition from a Public Safety Department to a campus police force.

“We have worked on a number of measures to improve campus safety,” said President Bill Scroggins. “We are in the midst of a transition to a certified police department.”

Some of the campus improvement measures have included active shooter training sessions for staff, implementation of the Alertus campus notification system, emergency blue telephones, and a campus security camera project recently approved the college’s Board of Trustees.

Perhaps one of the largest and most noticeable steps taken includes the reorganization of what is now called the Police and Campus Safety Department.

Former Campus Safety officers have been retrained and reclassified into one of four positions: Community Service Officer, Public Safety Officer I, Public Safety Officer II, and Police Officer. Each of the four classifications affords varying levels of training and certification, with the Public Safety Officer II and Police Officer designations requiring higher levels. As of yet, none of the college’s current staff have be trained or upgraded to the Police Officer level.

Some of the revamping of the department includes incorporating the state Peace Officers Standards and Training  (POST) methodology and in-service training with a goal to be POST certified in six to 12 months.

“My direction since I came here three years ago was to build us a police force,” said Police Chief David Wilson.

The most controversial aspect of the reorganization is the prospect of having armed officers on campus. Under the new classification system, Police Officers would carry firearms, and the Public Safety Officer II position would be an optional armed designation.

Nationwide statistics show that 92 percent of public colleges and universities have sworn and armed officers.

Current policy at Mt. SAC allows most officers to carry only pepper spray and batons. One current exception, per the college president’s discretion, allows the four managers in the Police and Campus Safety Department to carry firearms.

“We need to provide options so our people can do their jobs to the best of their ability,” Wilson said.

The rationale behind the reorganization is imbedded in the societal reality of mass shootings and casual violence in America today. Another part of that rationale stems from the logistics of being a large, heavily populated campus.

“If you call the Walnut Sheriffs to be here right now, I would guess it would take them eight to 10 minutes to get here,” said Wilson. “We are already here.”

“This is a safe campus,” he said, “but the statistical crime reports don’t show everything that goes on here.”