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Feeney aims to fix safety problems

Cheyanne Burens

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John Feeney, chief of University Police, has a detailed plan for the next year that he hopes will provide many positive changes for Chico State and the surrounding area. Photo credit: Jenelle Kapellas

John Feeney has already begun to leave his mark on campus in the passing months since July when he officially became chief of the University Police Department.

The new chief has several areas of concern that he plans to address throughout the first year of his term.

Positive campus community relationships with police

With 29 years under his belt as captain for the San Francisco Police Department, Feeney has liberal views on policing which are helpful in combating today’s increasingly negative feelings toward police.

“It’s important to me that we gain and establish that trust between the staff and the students, and the police department here,” he said.

Feeney understands the public outrage due to ongoing incidents of police brutality and hopes to deter hard feelings by having an open door policy within the campus community.

Cookies with the Cops is one way Feeney has already reached out to students to show that University Police is more than just police officers. It is an ongoing series of meetings held on campus as an effort to strengthen student-cop relations.

Creating a safer campus community

Feeney has heard about specific, popular concerns from the campus community surrounding the safety of the crosswalk and bike path on Nord Avenue that he hopes to address within the upcoming months.

He has plans to illuminate the busy Nord Avenue crosswalk in addition to the traffic signs already in place.

He also hopes to make the bike path leading to the Nord crosswalk much safer for students who use it at night.

The dangers of the path were first brought to his attention by a senior student who shared a negative experience she had with a dispatcher when she resorted to using one of the blue emergency phones, because she didn’t feel safe walking to her home on Nord.

“That’s not how I want our police department to treat our students because we’re here for our students and for any of our people,” Feeney said.

Halloween weekend

Given that Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, a two-night event is expected downtown. And University Police is planning accordingly.

After highlighting the general uneventful nature of Welcome Week and Labor Day weekend this year, Feeney said the department is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst in regards to Halloween weekend.

Like previous Halloween weekends, additional law enforcement will be brought in, including:

  • 28 officers from other CSU’s
  • Chico Police Department
  • California Highway Patrol special forces
  • Butte County Sheriff’s probation and parole units

There will also be a glass bottle ban throughout the weekend, he said.

However, Feeney stressed that lowering sexual assault numbers, along with other crimes, is a shared responsibility of everyone within the community.

He finds that “self-policing” is the most effective way to avoid dangerous situations as a college student.

“It’s not the police department, it’s not the students’ entire responsibility,” he said. “It’s a partnership, it’s a shared relationship to keep our students safe.”

Methods of “self-policing” include:

  • Using alcohol responsibly
  • Staying in groups while going out
  • Sstepping in and helping instead of being a bystander
  • Taking
    pictures of license plates
  • Letting University Police know how they can help you be safe
  • Reporting
    crime to University Police
  • Using
    blue light phones on campus
  • Taking R.A.D. classes

Creating a diverse police staff

University Police has more changes to look forward to aside from the welcoming of a new chief last season. The department is currently searching to fill two positions and plans to fill two more in the near future.

Chief Feeney is taking this opportunity to diversify the department so it better reflects the ever-growing diversity of Chico State. Currently, Corinne Beck, lieutenant for the University Police department, is the only sworn female member among a department that is predominantly white males, Feeney said.

He aims to add bilingual speakers to his police force. However, he stressed that candidates also have to prove to be a good fit for the university if they are to be seriously considered.

“I’m not just looking to check a box, I’m looking for quality,” he said.

Student safety

Feeney also realizes that alcohol abuse is central to many safety issues for students and plans to address it throughout his time as chief.

“It’s a reality of students coming to Chico State away from home; they have newfound freedoms,” he said. “Every year we have a new group of students coming in so we have to continually message that.”

Sexual assault remains on the rise throughout the country and one of the department’s top concerns, especially between the start of the semester and Thanksgiving vacation where there are multiple weekends that revolve around partying, Feeney said.

“We’re the shepherds and our students are our flock, and when one of our flock gets preyed upon, I take that personally and I want our officers to feel the same way too,” he said. “We’re here to protect our students.”

Cheyanne Burens can be reached at [email protected] or @cheyanne_burens on Twitter.

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Feeney aims to fix safety problems