Officials at California’s Statewide University Police Association (SUPA) report that avoidable threats to public safety are affecting all 23 Cal State University (CSU) campuses. At a time when serious crime is on the rise on CSU campuses statewide, the best efforts of university police are being undermined by CSU leadership, causing officer shortages, an inability to attract new hires and the loss of qualified personnel.
University police officers are concerned with steadily increasing levels of crime on CSU campuses, including violent and potentially catastrophic crimes like sexual battery, arson and shootings. For example, during 2012, San Diego State University (SDSU) saw shocking increases in rape (120%), assault (82%), and robbery (366%). The trend is continuing in 2013, where university police report incidents of burglary, breaking and entering, assault with a deadly weapon and most recently, armed robbery, where two SDSU students were confronted by two males wielding handguns.
This situation is especially alarming given current officer shortages. Though the average population on CSU’s campuses is well over 25,000 students, faculty and staff, university police typically function with one to three officers on duty - even though most calls require at least two officers. At SDSU, 29 officers have left the force in the past seven years, current staffing levels are down to 21 once a force of 35 and the department is unable to fill positions fast enough as even more officers leave. With such low turnover rates the norm, it is easy to see how campus crime levels are up so significantly.
Despite persistent requests by SUPA for more staffing and the ability to recruit and retain quality officers, the Chancellor’s office remains silent as they watch crime continue to rise. University police haven’t seen a raise in over seven years and do not receive basic incentives such as step increases. As a result, numbers of skilled officers have left and many of those who remain are currently seeking employment with non-CSU police agencies.
Says SUPA president Jeff Solomon, "Criminals are now seeing the CSU campuses as ripe for attack. Our officers will continue to put their lives on the line and put up the best fight we can with the limited resources we are given. We fully understand the current state of economics in California and we have been patient and flexible. We have accepted concessions and done without for several years, but the situation has become dangerous. The ability to attract and retain qualified officers is crucial to campus safety." He adds, "University police have dealt with major safety concerns like single officer shifts and overtime fatigue for far too long, there has to be a light at the end of this tunnel."
Campuses throughout the state that have populations reaching into the tens of thousands routinely have one police officer on duty, yet requests for greater police staffing, including more traffic enforcement and control, continue to be ignored.
Says Solomon, "We are shocked at the lack of concern from the Chancellor’s office after recent examples where students lost their lives in situations where public safety staffing could have made the difference."
On Dec. 8 at the San Bernardino campus, officers were forced to shoot a mentally ill student because they were denied standard equipment like Tasers and the manpower needed to resolve the situation without resorting to deadly force. More recently, on Feb. 28 at Cal Poly Pomona, a student lost his life after bring struck by a vehicle. Solomon asks, "Will it take another Virginia Tech to make them understand?"
The California Statewide University Police Association is a non-profit organization representing over 300 police officers, corporals and sergeants in the California State University Police system. For additional information please visit: www.supacsu.org.