By Jose Marquez-Cuevas
Riverside City College District Police takes precautions in protecting students from crime
The Riverside Community College District police department has begun implementing measures to defend the colleges against the threat of active shooters.
As part of the Safety and Security Initiatives, the district promoted two sworn officers to senior positions at the Moreno Valley and Norco campuses. The District also approved and 12 community service aids from substitutes to permanent part-time officers.
Among other highlighted upcoming initiatives is the proposal of equipment upgrades that would include ballistic vests, helmets and shields. This initiative sparked some concern.
Riverside City College student Joey Mendoza shared some of his concerns in regards to the possible militarization of campus police.
“As a student and as a person of color who has seen the climate in this country around civil action and also people of color and their interactions with the police, I’m very concerned still about what are the regulations around this equipment,” Mendoza shared during a Board of Trustees meeting.
Mendoza also wanted a more clear direction of when these equipment upgrades will be used.
“I’m concerned about the safety of everyone on campus. And so I want as a student, as a community member, to be able to point to something and say ‘Don’t worry. We have this, but it will only be used in this incident and anything other than (a threat of an active shooting) will be a violation of code.’”
Moreover, RCCD Faculty Association President Dariush Haghighat expressed his concern following that district stakeholders were not involved in the decision making process.
“We should have reviewed all the facts, all the documents, all available data and then after render a collective decision,” Haghighat said.
Making the decision around public safety has not included all who deserve to be notified by these changes.
“Representatives of faculty, staff (and) students were absent in the decision making process,” Haghighat said.
He stated that his main criticism goes out to the Chancellor’s Office since as the chief executive officer, it is the job of the Chancellor to manage all communication with the Board, faculty, staff and importantly to deliver important information to the students.
RCC student Joey Mendoza deliberated more discussion with Chief Gunzel. He shared some of his thoughts about the current communication between the district and the students.
“This (discussion) is an issue of communication. It turns out that they only bought four ballistic shields: one for each campus in the district and then one backup,” Mendoza said.
He continued with a comment in reference to the word “ballistic,” “When you hear ballistic vests, you think ‘something that holds bullets and guns.’ Actually, the only reason they put ballistic was because it has to do with the nature of gunfire being exchanged. In reality, (the district police) call it a plate holder. And all it is, is they bought stronger bullet proof vests.”
Much of the funding will come from grants, according to RCCD Police Chief Robert Gunzel.
“Equipment is not all college budget. There’s other grants and things like that,” said Chief Gunzel.
With the one time cost of purchasing upgraded and improved police radios, the RCCD campus police are now able to communicate with the sheriff and the police department from outside agencies.
Following the discussion at the Board meeting, Chief Gunzel has been proactive in student forums and has been open to discussing with students and staff about their concerns. Chief Gunzel has insisted that any students with concerns should feel free to contact him.
“Students need to engage themselves in social issues,” Dariush said. “(They need) to become more vocal and active in part of their civic duty.”
An update of the Safety and Security Initiatives will follow at a later issue.