City, campus police improve collaboration

John Feeney, University Police chief, believes that collaboration among police departments is crucial to success. Photo courtesy of John Feeney.

John Feeney, University Police chief, believes that collaboration among police departments is crucial to success. Photo courtesy of John Feeney.

In addition to updating a Memorandum of Understanding, University Police and Chico Police Department hope to collaborate more effectively to keep the Chico State community safe.

At a recent open forum, violence and crime within Chico was addressed by students. One component of this concern is the Chico Police Department. It has battled staffing concerns in recent years.

“The police department staffing is nearly half of what it was 10 years ago,” said Sergeant Scott Zuschin. “If there is one critical incident, serious assault, major collision or other incident that requires multiple officers for safety or other reasons, we have to call upon allied agencies to assist us with calls in our city.”

Sgt. Scott Zuschin of the Chico Police Department discusses the lack of police officer presence in Chico and its decline over the past few years. Photo courtesy of Scott Zuschin.

Allied agencies include California Highway Patrol, the Butte County Sherriff’s office and University Police. Zuschin said Chico police are doing all they can to address crime and safety with limited resources.

Although the primary responsibility of University Police is patrolling the Chico State main campus and other affiliated buildings, it has jurisdiction within a one-mile radius off campus.

Chico and University police are updating an MOU to work even more closely together.

The MOU has been processing for the last two months, said Sean Morgan, vice mayor of Chico. Lawyers from the Chancellor’s Office have to approve the document first. It’s similar to an MOU that Cal Poly San Luis Obispo uses with its sheriff’s department.

John Feeney, University Police chief, said that assisting Chico police is important to keeping the community safe. He credits effective collaboration with city police to Michael O’Brien, the city police chief.

“He and I have a very good working relationship,” Feeney said. “We both want to collaborate and have our citizens, students, faculty and staff be safe.”

Halloween is an example of Chico and University police working closely together in an effective way, Feeney said. On Halloween, arrests were made at a university parking lot on Second Street. The suspects had loaded firearms and were detained by University Police. The arrests utilized investigative support from Chico police as well as the Butte Narcotics Task Force.

“Our success this year during the Halloween weekend was proof to me that [Chico and University police] can work together to promote safety around campus,” he said. “It was an excellent example of collaborative police work.”

A decline in arrests occurred this past Halloween. Morgan said that he’s seen changes over the years with how the two police departments function together.

“Two Halloweens ago, I went out on a ride along with Chico police,” he said. “University police officers stayed on campus, for the most part, dealing with students. Last Halloween, [both] responded to calls together, and that’s how I believe it should be.”

Morgan said that Chico State is a unique campus because it is so interconnected with the city. Other campuses may be more separate.

Sean Morgan, vice mayor of Chico, has seen a decrease in the number of arrests made in Chico during Halloween weekends. Photo courtesy of Sean Morgan.

Collaboration between the university and the city isn’t the only change Morgan’s seen. He said that students are becoming more involved in city safety concerns as well. In the past, students would speak out against the passing of certain ordinances, but now want to work with the city to increase safety.

“The more the students are involved, the better,” Morgan said. “They should feel safe.”

On campus, Feeney hopes to see more collaboration between University Police and students as well. A Police Student Advisory Board is being created. The board will consist of University Police and Associated Students working together. By having a better understanding of how students want to be policed, the entire campus community can benefit, he said.

Morgan believes that city and campus leaders are working together more closely than they ever have in the past to increase safety in Chico.

“Nobody has pointed fingers at anybody else,” he said. “I am incredibly optimistic about where this is going.”

Elizabeth Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or @ElizabethC718 on Twitter.