Skip to content
  • Print


    Pacific Review

    Office of Marketing and Communications
    3601 Pacific Avenue
    Stockton, CA 95211

    Keeping Pacific safe

    By Jennifer Langham and Katie E. Ismael
    Pacific Review, fall 2016

    During this summer's Pokemon Go craze, Pacific's public safety officers in Stockton were kept busy late into the night, ensuring the swarms of people playing the popular game around the campus were safe.

    It was taxing, to be sure, keeping an eye on hundreds of extra visitors to the 175 acres officers patrol in and around the Stockton Campus. But for Pacific's officers, it was all part of their 24/7 job that has become much more than enforcing the law; they are also an integral part of the community and a partner in helping navigate the complex issues around safety and police relations in today's world.

    On Pacific's Sacramento and San Francisco campuses, the public safety offices deal with different challenges. The Sacramento Campus is nestled on 13 acres in the older residential Oak Park neighborhood, while the San Francisco Campus is a stand-alone high-rise in the bustling, urban South of Market (SoMa) district.   The goal, however, is the same: to keep students, faculty, staff, visitors and everyone on campus safe within and beyond Pacific's gates.

    Relationships and knowhow

    Pacific's public safety department boasts impressive numbers and experience and strong relationships — to do just that.

    Mike Belcher, Pacific's executive director of public safety, has 39 combined years with the Stockton Police Department and Pacific's Public Safety Department. He oversees 10 officers, three sergeants and a lieutenant on the Stockton Campus; one director, an assistant director, six public safety officers and one on-call public safety officer on the Sacramento Campus; and 15 people on the San Francisco Campus, which includes one lieutenant, one sergeant, two corporals, nine patrol officers, a coordinator, and a loading dock attendant. A focus of his is to build strong partnerships between the public safety offices on Pacific's three distinct campuses. 

    For the Stockton Campus, establishing relationships with nearby residents is a critical part of campus safety. Officers go to National Night Out events in neighborhoods around the campus, keep in touch with neighbors through social media sites such as Facebook and Nextdoor, and respond to off-campus emergencies within their patrol area.

    In return, neighbors are sometimes the eyes and ears for crime happening near campus.

    This campus/community partnership is made possible, according to Belcher, through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the campus force and the Stockton Police Department, which designates Stockton Campus officers as sworn peace officers. Pacific is one of only two private institutions in California where this is the case. 

    "With the MOU, our officers swear in as public safety officers and have to go through the background check, the polygraph and the psychological evaluations as well as training that is very similar to the training Stockton police officers go through," said Belcher.

    Public Safety officer speaks with student
    Public safety officers strive to be visible and part of the community and to form positive relationships with those they serve.
    San Francisco Public Safety officer

    Stockton Campus officers can be first responders to any incidents on campus and the streets surrounding campus, and their response time is one to two minutes.

    This approach to campus policing was a model for Assembly Bill 2361, recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, which amends the penal code to create a structure for training and deputizing public safety officers at independent institutions of higher learning throughout the state.

    Belcher describes the practical implications of the working relationship his officers have with neighbors. When a transient stole a bike from campus, Stockton public safety officers pulled a picture of the thief from security camera footage and posted it to the social network site Nextdoor. They were contacted by a neighbor a couple of hours later who told officers she had just seen the man in the picture standing on a nearby street corner. Officers quickly made an arrest.

    For Dane Bradley, director of security and a 29-year veteran with the public safety office at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, making officers visible was especially important when the campus moved to its new location in the SoMa neighborhood two years ago.

    "We had really gotten to know the community in our old location and when we moved here we wanted to get to know the new community," he said. "It made a big difference. Now we know who is local and who is not, and it helps us better identify potential problems."

    As part of their outreach to the new community, Bradley and his public safety team work with the nearby Yerba Buena Community Benefits District, especially in referring homeless people near campus to shelters and other resources.

    In Sacramento, Pacific's campus is located in one of the city's most historic and ethnically diverse neighborhoods, Oak Park. An agreement with the Sacramento Police Department and Pacific will be renewed early next year, which will allow Pacific public safety officers to assist the campus community outside of its boundaries for greater integration in the neighborhood.

    Jackie Long, the director of public safety on the Sacramento Campus and a 31-year law enforcement veteran, said additional public safety upgrades are being considered to meet the needs of the growing campus (several new graduate and professional programs have recently been launched on the campus), such as a program where an officer is assigned to one of the four campus housing units to provide in-depth communication with residents. Long said he looks forward to greater interaction with the community as the campus, and the department's authority, grows.

    Belcher said he's glad the Stockton neighbors near campus call on his officers for help. "If I can improve safety in their neighborhoods, I'm also improving the safety of students, staff and visitors to our campus and the community at large," he said.  

    Technology and education lend a helping hand

    A recently renovated dispatch center on the Stockton Campus has eight big screens, each with eight different videos, and six dispatchers work in the center, monitoring feeds from 240 security cameras around campus. That can be especially helpful at night when fewer students are around. On the Sacramento Campus, five new cameras have recently been installed. They also provide video feeds to the Stockton Campus and can be viewed in the dispatch center there.

    Dispatch center
    Dispatch centers monitor video feeds from security cameras placed throughout the campuses. 
    Officer provides training session to students
    Officers work with housing staff to present educational programs on topics such as self-defense, substance abuse and sexual assault prevention.

    Officers on the Stockton Campus have also begun to use body cameras anytime they're on duty, modeling a practice adopted by the Stockton Police Department. This allows for transparency of the public safety department, helps preserve evidence and serves as a training tool.

    Beyond the tools of technology, education is also crucial. In Stockton, officers work with housing staff as well as with Greek-letter organizations and the university's Victim Advocate to present educational programs on topics such as self-defense, drug and alcohol uses and sexual assault prevention.

    Officers have also worked to build relationships with a variety of student groups, such as the Black Student Union and MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán), and have frequent interaction with them through attending meetings, educational presentations or other outlets.

    "We want all students here to feel comfortable with our officers and for our officers to listen to the concerns of the community," Belcher said.

    On the San Francisco Campus, Bradley and his officers start every school year by giving students tips for "street smarts" in navigating one of the nation's biggest cities.

    "This is a pretty city, but it has places that aren't safe," he said. "We try to educate students on how to walk, what to look for and how to stay safe here."

    Belcher gives several metrics to show how his officers are keeping campus safe. In the early 2000s, Pacific's Stockton Campus averaged 20 stolen vehicles per year; in the last couple of years, however, that's dropped to two per year. There's also been a decrease in property loss from stolen bikes, from over $28,000 in 2015 to $3,500 so far in 2016. But the relationships with students, staff and visitors are what Belcher thinks make the biggest difference on Pacific's campuses, or on any campus.

    "Working in campus public safety, we really feel that we can make a difference to the people and communities we serve," he said. "Here's what we try to get across to students: There are often going to be stressful and sometimes scary issues in life, and the police department is the best place to start for information and help."

    Prepared and part of the community

    As the nation has been grappling with a spate of mass shootings, heightened racial tensions and serious questions about police and community relationships, public safety officers at Pacific have taken a deep look at how to adapt and respond during these challenging times.

    Pacific public safety officers have recently begun training through the Stockton Police Department to study a concept called "procedural justice." The three-phase program is designed to form better relationships between the community and law enforcement.

    The practice of procedural justice centers on officers treating people with dignity and respect; ensuring citizens' voices are heard during encounters with law enforcement; and being neutral in decision-making and conveying trust.  So far, training in procedural justice has occurred only in Chicago, Oakland, California, and Stockton. A component of this training addresses how law enforcement officers can de-escalate a situation, in particular in dealing with someone with mental health issues. Belcher said that's a particular area of focus and concern, especially with the epidemic of opioid, prescription drug and heroin abuse.

    Another outgrowth of that work is greater outreach and involvement with communities of color and other underrepresented groups. For example, the public safety department recently created a policy around interaction with the transgender community that the university's PRIDE Resource Center helped review; the department has also received training in how to interact with the LGBTQIA community. The department is also in the process of developing a training course on how to de-escalate situations, and is involving transgender, Black, Hispanic and Muslim student groups in its development.

    "We not only deal with our own issues but national ones as well," said Belcher. "It's important that we be prepared to deal with the complex and ever-changing issues society is facing, to help us protect our Pacific community and neighbors and be partners with them in creating a safe environment for everyone." 

    Pokemon Go logoPublic Safety takes on Pokémon Go

    Lieutenant Wayne Germann, a 27-year veteran of Pacific's public safety department, said he's never seen anything quite like the Pokémon Go craze of this past summer.

    "We started noticing people walking around with their phones, and a 
couple of days later the game was on the news," he recalled. "By that night there were over 100 people on the Stockton Campus playing Pokémon."

    Germann said that the game, in which players catch virtual Pokémon by going to different geographical locations with their smartphones, had placed five "gyms" and 100–150 "Pokéstops" on the campus.

    "We got concerned when we saw a father walking with his very young daughter down below the levee to play the game," said Germann. "Also, we had heard reports from other places in the U.S. where criminals were using the game to lure people to an area and then mugging them. We worried about someone getting hurt," he said.

    So Germann quickly 
assembled an ad hoc task force, including officers from the Sacramento and San Francisco campuses, to figure out how the university was going to handle the influx of visitors playing the game.

    "One idea was that we should prevent people from coming on campus to play the game, but this would have meant our officers spent 14 hours a day chasing people off campus," said Germann. "I said, 'We have to embrace this.'"

    The officers increased patrols in more secluded areas of campus where game sites were located and on the Stockton Campus, they created a sign on the footbridge over the levee telling people they didn't have to walk down below to play the game but could play from the bridge itself. And Germann asked officers to start checking Pokémon Go during their shifts to make sure new game sites didn't pop up, which perhaps looked a little strange to students.

    "We had one student complain that our officers were playing the game on the job," he laughed.

    While the game craze may have cooled, people still play Pokémon Go at Pacific. When Germann looks back on the increased workload from the game this summer, he sees a silver lining in how officers worked across departments and campuses to handle a potential crisis quickly. 

    "It actually turned out to be a good opportunity to bring people to 
 campus and to open the campus to the community," said Germann "It worked out for everyone."