By Steven Adamo
The academic senate voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend that the administration—in conjunction with the academic senate—work with the sheriff’s department to promote community policing.
The resolution is an important first step toward a one-on-one approach to campus policing. Vice president of the academic senate Jeff Hernandez relayed concerns from students and visitors over being intimidated by the SUVs on campus.
Some students complained that the SUVs are frequently parked outside of classroom buildings. Officer Ben Fournier compared community policing to being a liaison. “Students will address concerns and comments to us and we do our best to address them,” Fournier said.
A few members of the academic senate suggested smaller police vehicles or scooters on campus instead of SUVs. Fournier explained that smaller patrol cars have been discontinued and most agencies are switching over to Ford Explorers, especially in California.
The campus sheriff’s department is contracted out by the Los Angeles Community College District, which makes oversight of the department difficult. The goal of this motion is to create a better relationship between administration, campus police and students.
Curtis Walker of the Administration of Justice Department at East Los Angeles College raised his opposition to the idea of community policing. Walker said he was “not optimistic” about this approach.
He added “It’s common sense that cars should be parked somewhere where officers can then go on foot.” A couple of senate members discussed the frequency in which officers on campus are rotated out, often before any relationships can be made.
For the second meeting in April, the academic senate agreed to hear a report on specific concerns regarding the relationship between the sheriff’s department and students.
The sheriff’s department also stated that they will not enforce the free speech zone unless administration tells them to do so.
“The concern is that if an outside group wanted to challenge the adequacy of the free speech zone, then (the sheriff’s) don’t want to be the ones that get targeted in the lawsuit. They rather the administration get targeted in the lawsuit” Hernandez said.
Walker said that police officers don’t want to create conflict with the community. “We don’t want the police going and telling people who can talk, who can’t, and you’re not in the right place to talk… most of the sheriff’s don’t want to do that,” Walker said.
The placement of the free speech zone was up for vote after the Administrative Services office suggested that it be moved to the Husky statue by the stadium parking lot. The current location of the zone is just north of the P3 parking structure.
“There’s a lack of leadership on the issue,” Hernandez said. Faculty also requested that they be alerted of specific protocol for violations of the free speech zone.
Concerns were raised by senate members about non-campus organizations that set up on campus, but not at the free speech zone. One example given was when a religious group passed out bibles by the science department.
No permit is required to use the free speech zone, and it’s open to non-students as well. The motion to keep the free speech zone at its current location passed unanimously by the academic senate. The next senate meeting will take place March 28 at noon.