The University Police Department (UPD) is looking to expand its resources over the next five years as the Cal Poly administration plans to increase student enrollment and on-campus living.
The university announced the Cal Poly Master Plan at the beginning of the school year. The plan introduced Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong’s vision of having 65 percent of the student body living on campus. UPD Chief of Police George Hughes is hoping his department will be able to expand with the outlined growth of Cal Poly.
“We are asking for an additional two more officers once we open the new residence hall in fall of 2018,” Hughes said. “When that new residence hall opens, our enrollment numbers aren’t going to be much bigger, but we will have another 1,500 residents living on campus.We are increasing our on-campus population, which means our service demands will increase and stretch our resources.”
So far, some students said they are indifferent about a larger police force on campus. Animal science freshman Aldo Marquez thinks the change wont be noticeable.
“Since the campus will be getting larger, nothing will seem different,” Marquez said. “The proportion of students to officers will be the same.”
In the past four years, there have been 631 traffic tickets handed out for failing to stop at a stop sign, 211 criminal tickets issued for skateboard violations, 319 alcohol related arrests and 592 petty theft crimes. With a larger campus population, there is a higher chance more citations and arrests will be made.
Hughes said when he became chief of police four years ago, there were a total of 18 sworn-in officers, which included himself and the commander. UPD hopes to add two more, for a total of 20 officers.
Even though UPD can employ 18 officers currently, it is still short-staffed.
“We’ve had several retirements, we’ve had people out on injury, so even though we’ve been approved for 18 positions, very rarely do we ever had 18 full time police officers on at one time,” Hughes said. “Right now we are six people down.”
Even though the department is stretched thin, Hughes said they are actively recruiting to meet with the demands of the university. Hughes is hoping UPD will be fully staffed by the beginning of the next school year.
“We are hoping to have a minimum of three officers on at all times,” Hughes said. “We are also hoping to have at least four or five officers during our busy hours of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.”
Despite trying to bring up the current full-time staff, Hughes isn’t worried about trying to meet the demands of the university’s Master Plan.
“We got some time,” Hughes said. “We got some time to figure out where the money is going to come from and identify those folks and get them trained.”
Training the department’s first K-9 unit will help UPD keep a growing Cal Poly safe. Hughes said they have finally raised enough money to purchase the K-9 and to conduct the training. There is currently an officer-in-training with the dog. The addition to the team may not be able to complete its training by fall quarter, but Hughes is expecting the dog to be on the force next year.
“It’ll be a patrol dog and then we are also going to train it in tracking,” Hughes said. “We can also train it in drugs and bomb sniffing.”
However, students like bioresource and agricultural engineering junior Alex Curiel think the K-9 unit will have its pros and cons.
“The purpose of these dogs probably won’t be for sniffing out bombs, but primarily using like a witch hunt to track down all the drugs on campus,” Curiel said. “But I feel like when I see the dogs on campus, I’ll feel more protected. You know they’ll crack down on a lot of drugs, but the give is they will be providing us extra protection.”
The department already uses dogs to sniff out explosive devices at large events on campus, but they are borrowed from other agencies. They also borrow dogs to sniff out drugs in the residence halls.
Even with the addition of the K-9, Hughes wants to have enough officers to keep Cal Poly safe.
“I want to make sure we grow with it (Cal Poly) appropriately to continue to provide a very proactive police force,” Hughes said. “I would love to see we get to the point where we are more proactive than reactive. I think the campus will start seeing more that next year when we are fully staffed.”