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By Janean Sorrell, Feb. 15, 2022

The new Police Advisory & Safety Committee held its first retreat on Jan. 13 via Zoom, bringing together the newly formulated committee of the PASC to brainstorm ideas on how to build a transparent, deeper relationship between the campus community and the University Police Department.

The objective of the Police Advisory & Safety Committee is to ensure the UPD aligns with Cal Poly Pomona’s core values of community engagement, inclusivity, and social and environmental responsibility.

“The folks on the committee are very dedicated, very enthusiastic, to start getting to work on what this next term will look like for us,” said Interim Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Police Advisory & Safety Committee Chair, Megan Stang.

Cpl. Brown of the University Police Department provides directions to a community member passing by. (Janean Sorrell | The Poly Post)

The Police Advisory & Safety Committee is the result of recommendations by the Police Advisory Task Force that was created in 2020 in response to national conversations about policing that involved protests about police brutality and racial injustice.

According to Alejandro Covarrubias, chair of the Police Advisory Task Force and executive director of student inclusion and belonging, prior to the pandemic there were several incidents on campus where students of color, particularly Black students, felt profiled by some UPD officers.

“It’s really important that the campus has a mechanism to have these conversations and make sure the campus has a system in place where stakeholders are able to come together and build trust between the community and our police officers and figure out ways where we can strengthen the relationship,” said Covarrubias.

According to the final PATF report, released Aug. 24, 2021, three themes emerged from the PATF meetings:

  • “The CPP Police Advisory Board needs to be a symbol of change and representation for student voices.”
  • “There needs to be a stronger relationship between the campus community and UPD.”
  • “The UPD should fully adopt a community policing framework.”

Per the U.S. Department of Justice, community policing framework is, “a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime.”

“It’s about having an open dialogue, being transparent with the community and working together,” said Interim UPD Chief Erik Munzenmaier. “It’s about listening to the community, collaboration, building trust, building confidence, all these things that are also important to me as well.”

Munzenmaier said that with government code and laws there is only so much that can change but the UPD wants to move forward to build trust with all the campus stakeholders and is ready to move to a community policing framework.

“The way I look at it is I’m a staff member, then you have your faculty, your students. So, we’re here for you; we’re here for your safety,” said Munzenmaier. “We’re supposed to be educating even with the actions that we take.”

The report also detailed five priorities for the Police Advisory & Safety Committee to address in the first two years from improving trust and communication for all campus stakeholders, bridging the gap from traditional policing to community policing, educating about engagement with police officers, researching UPD data collection and continuing to review the UPD complaint process.

According to Derek Sweem, ASI vice president and member of the committee, the committee’s priority is to focus on areas where UPD could improve their relationship with the campus community.

“It’s really come down to education and trying to educate people what community policing is and creating these opportunities where UPD can communicate and be with students and talk to them,” said Sweem.

The PASC includes members from all divisions across campus including one ASI representative, one Staff Council representative, the president or a designee of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, two Student Affairs representatives, one Academic Affairs representative, one Administrative Affairs representative, three Academic Senate representatives, four students selected via an application process and the UPD chief or designee of sergeant rank or higher.

“This is kind of a new concept and we’re trying to build trust, and trust doesn’t come overnight,” said Stang. “The committee is really a working group to move things forward.”

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