At College of Sequoias, security officers added to police force

A proposal to bolster the College of the Sequoias police force by adding security guards to patrol late at night and on weekends could soon soothe concerns by some in the college community worried about campus safety.

Within months, COS board members could approve the plan and have the extra security in place as early as next fall. The board hired a Napa-based consultant to study various options, including replacing the sworn police officers with security guards.

In October, when administrators began looking into the campus security issue, some college staff and students became upset and baffled when one option included replacing sworn police officers with security guards.

The consultant's report included the suggestion of having the college police chief oversee a combination force -- of sworn police officers and security guards.

Bill Scroggins, the college's president and superintendent, supports the idea.

"I think this is the best plan for COS," Scroggins said Wednesday. "It provides the experience of the sworn officers, and it provides the additional coverage with the security guards."

The college council -- made up of administrators, faculty and students -- discussed the recommendation during its Dec. 11 meeting.

"It was well-received by everyone," Scroggins said.

He said he hopes the council can discuss the recommendation again at its January meeting and vote on whether to move forward.

The college's board of trustees could vote on the security plan as early as March, he said.

If approved, Scroggins said, the recommendation would be implemented no later than fall 2008.

The college's campus police has a budget of about $439,000 and employs a police chief and four sworn officers.

A main concern about the existing security system is that police presence is limited to one officer per shift at certain times, with no coverage between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays.

Although Scroggins said he was open to several security options in October, some faculty and staff who heard about the possibility of eliminating police officers voiced concerns in a series of e-mails. They said security guards don't command the same respect from the public as sworn officers -- who have the power to arrest and detain.

The consultant's report found that 1,045 crime and incident reports were filed between January 2004 and early October 2007.

Of those, 770 were misdemeanors that could have been addressed by security-level officers.

The report also found that of the 109 community colleges, nearly half employ sworn officers, 18 contract for police services with local agencies, 35 colleges use security guards and the remaining institutions either have no enforcement or use students to patrol parking lots.

The report also revealed the pay for security officers is 25% to 42% less than for police officers -- who are making $35,000 to $50,000.

Members of the COS community attended focus groups in early November. A report said they generally supported keeping the officers and adding security guards to provide more visibility and to monitor parking lots and evening shifts.

Another major recommendation was for the college to provide more lighting in certain areas, add security phones on campus and in classrooms, and fix classroom and office doors so they can be locked from the inside.