The Orion

University police give chief low ranking

Mozes Zarate

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Chico State’s police chief was rated poorly by her fellow officers for the second year in a row in a survey conducted on behalf of a statewide university police officers organization.

In the survey, one of many published by the Statewide University Police Association, Chief Robyn Hearne was ranked second-to-last out of 23 police chiefs on California State University campuses.

Hearne scored below average in all categories, including integrity, crime fighting, character and accountability.

Bullying, favoritism and low department morale were concerns voiced in an anonymous comments section of the report.

Hearne’s overall score improved from 1.85 out of 5 in 2012 to a still below-average 2.38, according to the survey.

In the wake of the survey, many high-level campus officials spoke in favor of Hearne, praising her integrity and thoughtfulness.

“Chief Hearne has my complete support,” said Lorraine Hoffman, the vice president of business and finance.

Hoffman spoke highly of Hearne’s leadership in developing new public safety programs including Freshman Safe Start, Campus Connection and Safe Place.

Deborah Stewart, the  chief of staff at the Student Health Center, also praised Hearne.

“Her integrity is unquestionable,” Stewart said. “She is exceedingly thoughtful and responsive to the community concerns, with a very broad vision for protecting health and safety of the Chico campus community and beyond.”

In an interview with the Chico Enterprise-Record, Hearne said that departmental changes, like increased foot patrols, may have contributed to the negative responses. She also raised the possibility of duplicate survey filings, claiming that more officers responded to the survey than there are union officers at Chico State.

Lance Conlan, an officer in the university police department, said many officers were disappointed by Hearne’s response to the Chico E-R.

“Obviously, people like to focus on the positives and move forward,” Conlan said. “But that doesn’t negate the negatives.”

In an emailed statement to The Orion, Hearne expressed commitment to making positive changes on campus and gave thanks for the people at the University Police Department.

“While change can be perceived as negative by some who must in fact deliver the change, it is our students and fellow campus employees who are the recipients of that change,” Hearne wrote. “Please know that I am so proud and honored to work with many great employees at UPD who serve every day based on the desires and needs of the campus community.”

The survey is intended as constructive criticism, said Jeff Solomon, the president of the Statewide University Police Association. All chiefs who consistently receive negative evaluations are offered an opportunity to meet with the union to fix them.

Through the process, various California State University police departments have seen more effective communication between officers and their chiefs, Solomon said.

But a challenge faced by the members of Chico’s union is that many of the officers won’t speak out, Solomon said.

“A lot of them won’t come out privately and say this just because they are afraid of the repercussions from her,” Solomon said. “Whether that’s real or perceived, I don’t know.”

Hearne averaged 1.88 for “trust between top-level management and rank-and-file personnel” in the survey.

Other members don’t feel their input changes anything, said Marc Reed, the director of the union chapter at Chico State.

“There’s quite a few of them that feel they’re not being listened to,” Reed said. “They want to make changes. They want to make a better place to work.”

In the questionnaire, many officers indicated they would “leave the campus police department for another law enforcement opportunity.”

Chico’s union members are dedicated to their jobs despite a working environment that he compared to “walking on thin ice,” Reed said.

“They’ve made a commitment to their profession, made a commitment to their families, to their community that they are serving,” Reed said. “Is it tough? Sure it’s tough, and sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Solomon plans to reach out to Hearne soon and offer help, he said.

“We all have a stake in this,” Solomon said. “The overall issue is the safety of the campus. Nobody’s perfect, and I don’t expect the chief to be perfect, but I expect the chief to work with her people to create a safe atmosphere for everybody, and that does not appear to be happening right now.”

 

Mozes Zarate can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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University police give chief low ranking