SBPD attends council meeting to discuss armed officer proposal

Erick Pirayesh, News Editor

Santa Barbara Police Department representatives attended the April 16 College Planning Council meeting to discuss the controversial proposal for City College to hire a full-time armed police officer.

Chief of Police Camerino Sanchez and Deputy Chief Frank Mannix joined the discussion to help convince councilors to hire a full time officer. The proposal, presented by Joe Sullivan, Vice President of Business Services, and backed by Superintendent-President Dr. Lori Gaskin, would hire a police officer to patrol campus from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The position would cost an estimated $250,000 a year.

Sanchez has been with the department for more than 30 years. He said he believes City College is a safe place, but being prepared should be the highest priority.

“First of all, this is a great college. We did not bring crime statistics because it’s a pretty safe place,” he said. “But we’ve seen things around the country happen in other safe places. It’s best to prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

Santa Barbara Police Department has a full-time armed officer that patrols local high schools. However, the officer’s salary is budgeted by the department and not paid for by the schools.

Sanchez assured the councilors that if they do hire an officer, he or she would be hand-selected and one of the best the department has to offer.

“It would be an all star, who is good at communication, listening, all those things, and that is well rounded and well educated,” he said.

Director of Campus Security Erik Fricke, also present at the meeting, listed three reasons in support of the proposal: (a) concern for the safety of his security staff when dealing with hostile individuals, (b) the ability to hand out citations for everyday disturbances and (c) the ability to respond quickly and decisively if a dangerous situation arose, such as an active shooter or other emergency.

“My biggest worry for my officers is that they’re going to come across something that is beyond their ability to handle,” he said. “We do not have police training.”

The officer would report directly to Fricke and would simply be an extra “tool” for the college.

Many councilors, however, remained unconvinced that hiring an armed officer is ethical.

“I see a role for law enforcement in society, certainly, and I have had different types of relationships with law enforcement over the years,” said Library Director Kenley Neufeld. “Would the Santa Barbara Police Department be willing to consider an unarmed officer in this role?”

English professor Priscilla Butler, who was a police officer with the San Jose Police Department, has passionately opposed the proposal. She cited a number of campus statistics from 2009 to 2011 to highlight the declining rate of crime at City College.

“Why the need and why now with a decline, apparently, in the number of incidences reported [on campus]?” she said. “We can try to give ourselves peace of mind all day and all night. I think it’s very hard to justify $250,000 for that peace of mind.”

The College Planning Council will meet again May 7 when they will vote on this proposal.