Police hold forum on practices

Students and community members come forward to voice concerns

Alfred C. Chu and Ryan James

Amid concerns about policing practices on campus two open forums were held by the CSUSM police department where students, faculty, and other members of the community could get information, address issues and ask questions.

On Wednesday December 1 at 11 a.m. the first forum was held at the Clarke Field House in the Grand Salon. A panel from the CSUSM police department consisting of Police Chief Tom Schultheis, Assistant Police Chief Aaron Woodard and Police Officer Monika Forest were present. The forum began with Schultheis giving a PowerPoint presentation about the police department.

Information was presented about current projects the university police are implementing including Rape Aggression Defense (RAD), Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS), Homeland Security Projects, the Emergency Operations Center and the California State University Critical Response Unit. 

The presentation included the departments many policies and procedures for filing a compliant against an officer and requesting information on certain events and citations. Facts about the four types of crime, crime prevention, safety and emergency tips were also given

Data about campus police reports and the number of arrests made by campus police was displayed. These statistics showed that the number of police reports had nearly tripled since 1999. In 1999 there were 157 police reports filed and this number jumped to 467 in the current incomplete year of 2004.

After the presentation sociology Professor Edwardo Portillos moderated a question and answer session where the main issue raised was racial profiling. Many in the audience, which included students and faculty, expressed their concern about the subject, due to recent events.

“When I approach the driver I just pulled over for a traffic violation, my concern is my safety and my officer’s safety, because you don’t know who the person is, if they’re stable or not and/or what they have in their car. I had a partner who pulled over a driver at two in the morning and he got shot,” said Woodard.

“I absolutely do not tolerate racial profiling. I discourage the practice among my staff,” said Schultheis.

“Once an arrest has been made, what is the university’s role in deciding to charge a crime?” asked Professor Anne Lombard.

“It’s the police officer at the scene’s decision whether to charge the case as a felony if it can be proved. However the DA can then decide whether to drop the felony to a misdemeanor,” responded Schultheis.

After the forum had concluded, Lombard said she felt surprised that university officials would not become more actively involved after the arrest of a residential student in deciding whether to charge him/her with a felony.

“If I were a parent of a child at a residential college, I would probably expect a dean or some comparable person, other than an inexperienced campus security officer, to get involved before such a serious decision was made about my child,” said Lombard.

On Thursday December, 2 at 3 p.m. the second forum was held at the Clarke Field House in the Grand Salon. The same three members of the CSUSM Police Force attended the forum. Schultheis said the primary goal of the forums was to produce “awareness of who we are and what we do.”

After the introduction of the officers, Chief Schultheis led an approximately 25 minute PowerPoint presentation discussing the CSUSM Campus Police which closely followed the presentation given at the previous forum. In this presentation he supplied information regarding the perimeter of the department’s jurisdiction, the demographics of the CSUSM Campus Police Force and the training that police officers must undergo to obtain position on the CSUSM Campus Police Force.

To end his presentation Schultheis displayed statistics about police reports and arrests from years 1999-2004. Woodard referred to the statistics as “skewed” due to the fact that the statistics also displayed arrests and reports that had occurred outside of campus. After the presentation another question and answer forum was mediated by Professor Portillos.

To end his presentation Schultheis displayed statistics about police reports and arrests from years 1999-2004. Woodard referred to the statistics as “skewed” due to the fact that the statistics also displayed arrests and reports that had occurred outside of campus. After the presentation another question and answer forum was mediated by Professor Portillos. 

The discussion was opened up by Fil Knoff, President and CEO of a San Diego marketing company. Mr. Knoff and his wife reside two blocks from CSUSM, on Rush Drive. The couple told the story of how their mid 30’s, lawyer son was pulled over by Campus police on Twin Oaks Valley Road.

They said the officer’s reason for the stop was the placement of Mr. Knoffs son’s temporary registration permit on his vehicle. They said the officer who made the stop proceeded to take Mr. Knoffs son’s wallet, questioned him, patted him down, and made him take a sobriety test. The pair claimed that Mr. Knoff ended up coming down to the scene before the officer released their son, but without returning his wallet. Mr. and Mrs. Knoff were thanked for coming forward and then invited to file a formal complaint. Several students and other San Marcos residents came forward to express similar instances they felt constituted a pattern of police harassment

One San Marcos resident told a story of how he was arrested and his car was impounded for an expired registration. “Give me a call and I’d like to look into it,” responded Schultheis.

Sociology Professor Sharon Elise and a female dorm resident expressed their concern for the scrutiny that dorm residents were feeling from Campus Police. Elise also expressed concern over citations given to drivers at the crosswalks of CSUSM. These concerns were responded to with what appeared to be the popular response for the session, “we’ll look into it. Assistant Chief of Police Aaron Woodard expressed his interest in this question and passionately assured the audience that he himself, an African-American, would not allow racial profiling on his police force.

“I’ve been black a lot longer than I have been blue and I am sensitive to discrimination issues,” said Woodard. The event concluded by all three officers expressing interest in having annual police forums in the future, and encouraging the community to participate in upcoming forums.

 

The Cougar Chronicle: The independent student news site of California State University, San Marcos