By Janean Sorrell, Feb. 22, 2022

Sgt. Erik Munzenmaier began his tenure as interim chief of Cal Poly Pomona’s University Police Department starting Feb. 7, as announced in an email addressed to the campus community earlier this month after a failed search.

Munzenmaier is the fourth interim chief of police since Chief Dario Robinson’s retirement in July 2021.

“The role is very important for our campus,” said Christina M. Gonzales, vice president of student affairs. “We need to get the right person that understands not only the campus as a whole but who our students are, who our staff are, our faculty, because they’re serving this campus community and they need to know how to integrate themselves, the UPD and other officers and staff into this fabric that makes up the whole CPP community.”

Munzenmaier is the fourth interim chief of the Cal Poly Pomona University Police Department since July 2021. (Courtesy of Tom Zasadzinski)

According to Vice President of Administration and Finance Ysabel Trinidad, the vetting process for the open position is rigorous. Officers must go through a series of background checks more diligent than any other position on campus and to be appointed, the candidate would need to successfully complete all the required criteria.

“With that process it was an unsuccessful search, not all the criteria were met,” said Trinidad.

Trinidad also expressed it is not just the background check that matters but also how the new police chief will participate in CPP’s commitment to adopting the new community policing model.

“It really is reinforcing the first notion of community policing we’re committed to as a campus,” said Trinidad.  “There are specific priorities that the task force and the advisory board was looking for, but certainly community policing is at the top of the list, building the relationship between the campus community and UPD.”

Back in December 2021, the university held forums and two finalists were selected. However, neither finalist met the required criteria resulting in a failed search.

After serving 25 years with the San Diego County Sherriff’s Department, Munzenmaier joined UPD in 2018 as a patrol sergeant and eventually served as the department’s investigative and community relations sergeant. Munzenmaier also serves on the Behavioral Intervention Team for the Division of Student Affairs, sits on the Police Advisory and Safety Committee and is the Veterans Resource Center’s liaison to the UPD.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve been walking around, engaging with the community; that’s Policing 101,” said Munzenmaier. “It’s hearing what is going on with the people that are here day in, day out, walking around our campus and making sure they know that you’re available.”

Munzenmaier assumed the position from Lt. David Hall who was appointed as interim chief on Aug. 16, 2021, and served until Feb. 6. Hall was on a temporary hire due to CalPERS restrictions on retired police officers returning to the force and the total amount of hours they can work while retired.

“I’m honored they selected me for this position,” said Munzenmaier.

According to Trinidad, Munzenmaier was selected because of his background and experience.

“Working with university, his familiarity with community policing, his background in former roles working in higher education where he served in a similar role while working with a community college district,” said Trinidad.

Prior to Hall, Lt. Marc Simpson took over as interim chief from July 2, 2021, to Aug 16, 2021, following Capt. Scott VanScoy’s abrupt departure as interim chief after serving from June 1, 2021, to July 2, 2021.

“I’ve heard from students over the last year or so is they want a police chief that will also be visible and not afraid to interact and have other officers interacting with students daily,” said Gonzales. “So not only patrolling from their cars and that goes back to community policing, is to have relationships walking around, so people know who they are, so that they can talk to them and ask a question, be a part of the community.”

Gonzales also noted that students have asked for a safe place to provide input and have direct access to the chief, to be able to ask questions and understand why things are happening.

According to Trinidad, once Administrative Affairs receive nominations from the Academic Senate, a new search committee will begin screening for candidates. Trinidad is hopeful that there will be an appointment before the end of the academic year.

“It is a very important role, and we want to make sure we’re able to recruit someone that will serve our community well,” said Gonzales.

Feature image by Janean Sorrell

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