Tuesday, July 23, 2013

College district board approves contract with San Diego County Sheriff's Department

A contract with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement for the Grossmont and Cuyamaca college campuses has been unanimously approved by the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board.

The Governing Board ratified the $1.4 million contract with the Sheriff’s Department Tuesday night to take over the police functions now provided by the district’s Public Safety Department. Sheriff’s deputies will begin their duties at the two East County college campuses on August 19.

“The safety and security of our students, staff and visitors is our top priority,” said Bill Garrett, president of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District Governing Board. “Other college campuses across the country have been the scene of horrific crimes, and we want to have the highest level of professional law enforcement possible.”

The district is also creating a Campus and Parking Services department that will handle customer service issues such as room unlocks, safety escorts, or help with a vehicle. The CAPS specialists will also be issuing parking tickets and watching the campuses at nights and on weekends. The district will be ending a $220,000 annual contract with a security company that had been providing night and weekend coverage on the campuses.

Current employees with the district’s Public Safety Department, which is staffed by a supervisor, six officers, one dispatcher, and two clerical assistants, will have jobs with the Sheriff’s Department if they meet minimum qualifications, or within the college district.

District officials decided to seek the Sheriff’s Department contract after three assessments of the Public Safety Department found that it does not have the capacity to provide the range of law enforcement and emergency preparedness services that the colleges need. The assessments – conducted by the districts’ risk management and insurance carrier, a former El Cajon police chief, and the Sheriff’s Department – found that the Public Safety Department has inadequate staffing and training; outdated policies and procedures; an improper records and reporting system; lacks procedures and the capacity for properly collecting and managing evidence; and has a backlog of incomplete police reports and unprocessed evidence.

The district now budgets about $933,000 a year for its Public Safety Department, and the assessments demonstrated that the expense of bringing services up to needed law enforcement standards was more than the cost of contracting with the Sheriff’s Department.

 “We have gaps in our public safety that would years to rectify,” said Cindy L. Miles, district chancellor. “We’ve worked on many of these concerns for more than three years and now we’re turning our law enforcement over to the experts.”

Under the agreement, a sheriff’s sergeant and seven deputies will be assigned to work solely at the Grossmont and Cuyamaca college campuses. Back-up will be provided by other deputies from the Santee or the Lemon Grove sheriff’s substations as necessary. The district will also have access to Sheriff’s Department specialized units that investigate crimes such as illegal drug use and sales, domestic violence, auto theft or gang-related crime.

District officials are participating in the selection of the sheriff’s sergeant and the deputies who will be assigned to the campus, and the officers will be regularly evaluated to ensure they are a good fit for the campuses.

“This is a big change for the 30,000 students and 2,000 employees in our district, but I think it’s a necessary one we have to make to provide the best protection we can for our campuses,” Miles said.

Although no other community colleges in San Diego County contract for their police services, several other community colleges in California have hired professional law enforcement agencies. They include Antelope Valley College in Lancaster; Long Beach City College; Los Angeles Community College District; Peralta Community College District in Oakland; and Sierra College in Rocklin.