The Not So Public Forum For Your Police Chief

The forum between the potential chiefs gave students little notification

As part of the final interview process, there was a public forum held on Feb. 27 on the candidates running for Mt. SAC police chief. There was only one problem: only two students were at the public forum.

Even if a student was interested in attending, there were no notifications on the portal sent out to inform students of the forum.

It took six hours after the public forum for the college to post a newsroom article about the forum and include a link to submit feedback. Feedback was due back on March 8, nine days after the event.

“We are used to not seeing the administrations reach out for student input. I have no respect for the administration at Mt. SAC,” Maria Galvan, a Mt. SAC student, said.

Faculty were invited to the forum on Feb. 21 and were again invited the same day as the public forum. Both emails provided the option to ask questions at the forum and had attached information about the candidates.

The questions submitted were chosen randomly, but screened to make sure they did not violate the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. The EEOA protects job applicants and employees against discrimination on age, race, sex, national origin or disability.

“Students should have been included. I know that staff members received emails with information about that forum, I wasn’t aware that students weren’t receiving that information as well,” student services outreach specialist Melissa Candell said.

According to Jill Dolan, spokesperson and director of public affairs, and administrative specialist Cynthia Orr, announcements sent to student portals are requested by the president’s office. They did not know whether that was done this time.

“I’m sure there was no intent to keep students out of the process. Obviously, we are all here to serve students. We are aware of the concerns raised over the last year and a half. We value students voices as well as we value voices from our staff and faculty,” Dolan said.

SAC.Media reporters asked a series of questions to randomly selected students around campus about the police forum and the candidates. Thirty eight out of 50 students said they were not aware that there was going to be a new police chief on campus.

Mt. SAC President William Scroggins said students should take it upon themselves to seek information about events and public forums that happen on campus.

“Could more have been done? Yes,” Scroggins said regarding notifying students.

Police chief candidate Edgar W. Palmer said that any changes made, policy or weapons, on campus should include the students, and was surprised they were not notified.

“I actually looked out in the audience and I thought there would be more students there, and I was really surprised by that,” Palmer said.

This forum for the two new candidates for campus police chief followed a previous one on Nov. 28 and it resulted in no hire.

Michael C. Williams followed Palmer at the second forum where they gave their perspectives on community involvement among other issues.

“What I found was that by allowing people to get to know me, personally, access, it reduced a lot of the fear and trepidation,” Palmer said. “Each call you go to is an opportunity to build trust and relationships.”

Similar to Palmer, Williams expressed the need for good training for the current and future officers at Mt. SAC to eliminate racial biases and also to build a better relationship with the students and faculty on campus.

“I should say understanding cultural diversity [should be a requirement of police training], and this campus is the most diverse place any cop could work. I go so far as to say if you can be a successful police officer on a college campus or a university campus, you can knock it dead in the community out there,” Williams said.

The two new candidates are persons of color and in a Twitter poll, five out of 12 responded that having a police chief of color would change how they feel about safety on campus, but seven responded it would not.

The common responses from students who responded favorably attributed this to the idea that the chief would understand their concerns. One person who responded that it would not change how they feel said, “He’s still a cop.”

The final decision about Mt. SAC’s next police chief is yet to be made, however, Scroggins told the Mt. SAC Board of Trustees at the board’s monthly meeting on March 13 that Williams was recommended as the choice for the position. More information about police chief candidate Michael C. Williams, and the previous forum is available at these links.