On. Dec. 13, the Board of Trustees met amid growing concerns about the establishment of the Department of Police and Campus Safety, formerly the Public Safety Department, and the expanding of roles and number of officers on campus. Many of these concerns have been amplified by comments made by Deputy Chief Bob Wren to SAC Media that racial profiling is a "debunked myth." Wren's comments were made even more prevalent as the renewal of his contract was being voted on that night by the trustees.
The meeting also marked the election of the Board of Trustees new leadership for one-year terms effective immediately. The trustees elected Dr. Manual Baca, then vice president, to serve as president, Robert Hildago as vice president, and Jay Chen as the board's clerk.
During the meeting, Department of Police and Campus Safety Chief David Wilson explained that currently, the officers on campus have no legal ability to detain or arrest individuals. If they do so, they could be at risk of legal repercussion; therefore the board has to reclassify the officers, allowing them to perform their job without risk of liability.
Chen and Baca expressed concern about granting the officers on campus the power to legally detain individuals, as well the right to carry handcuffs. Wilson was asked if this power is consistent with other community college security departments.
"I don't know," Wilson said. The board decided to table the discussion until further research has been completed.
During the public comments, students and members of the faculty voiced their concerns on Wren's racial profiling comments. Faculty Accreditation Coordinator and English Professor Kristina Allende criticized Wilson for his response to Wren's comments.
"Chief David Wilson has not yet denounced those comments and instead has chosen to blame the media for slanting the views on racial profiling and police brutality," she said.
Before concluding her address, she voiced her confidence in Mt. SAC President William Scroggins' ability to handle the situation.
Other speakers were less optimistic. Mt. SAC student Alejandro Juarez addressed the issue of an armed police force on campus.
"It's more of an issue towards us students because we're the ones that are going to be faced with policing," Juarez said. Juarez called for the termination of Wren and added, "We're the ones that are going to deal with this and we do not want these public safety officers to have weapons on top of these characteristics and ideas."
However, opposition to Wren's comments came not just from students and faculty but from the board itself. Chen expressed his anger at Wren's comments. "When I found out that one of our public safety officers had stated that racial profiling and police brutality are debunked myths, I was pretty angry.," Chen said. "I was pretty angry that that could be associated with Mt. SAC because it's completely not true."
Chen pointed to recent news related to racial profiling and police brutality. "Just recently a police officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison because he shot an unarmed black man who was running away from him, that was in the news," Chen said. "There was another video that was released publicly of a young white man who was begging for his life and he was unable to follow orders that were issued to him by the police and he was probably inebriated and he ended up losing his life but he was unarmed."
"So, these incidents happen, they happen in Orange County, they happen in Los Angeles, so when that statement was made I was very upset because it's simply not true and these issues aren't fake news, it's real," Chen concluded.
Chen then said that in light of Wren's recent comments that the Deputy Chief's contract should be only renewed one year, which was in line with other contracts being voted on that night. The board voted unanimously, with the student trustee concurring, to renew Wren's contract for only one year.
Student Trustee Corey Case said that he believed the board voted to reduce the contract because of student's and faculty's reaction to Wren's comments.
"I believe the board made this motion and passed this motion because of all the public comment, personal experiences with Deputy Chief of Police Bob Wren, and reports by the Academic Senate, Associated Students and Classified Senate," Case said. "These all played a key role in the ultimate decision to reduce his contract to one year."
The Board of Trustees will meet again on January 10, 2018.