Students can expect the same or a slightly greater police presence than last year when Milo Yiannopoulos returns to campus April 26. Yiannopoulos is participating in the Cal Poly College Republicans’ Fake News Panel in Mott Athletics Center.
Yiannopoulos last spoke at Cal Poly January 2017 as part his “Dangerous Faggot” college tour, drawing a large protest and approximately 100 police officers.
At an Associated Students, Inc. Board of Directors meeting April 18, the University Police Department (UPD) Chief George Hughes outlined his department’s strategy for covering this controversial event.
“I have to prepare for what might happen, not what I know will happen and that takes a lot of people,” Hughes said.
UPD is planning on having a large number of officers, including SWAT team, on standby for situations ranging from clashing political groups to emergency situations. Hughes also said he expects fences and spotters on roofs of buildings near Mott Athletic Center.
“That takes a lot of people and I hope to never have to use those people and I hope you never see them,” Hughes said. “I plan on having a little bit more than we did last time because of the current climate that we have.”
Hughes said while last year was successful in that no one was hurt and free speech was ultimately protected, UPD could have been more transparent in how they responded.
“I wish I had prepared this campus for what to expect when they walked on campus that day,” Hughes said. “[Being alarmed by the police presence] is a perfectly natural response to have.”
The costs for this year are still unknown, but Hughes predicts they will be similar to the $55,000 to $60,000 spent in 2017. Much of this expense is a result of paying additional officers from other California State University campuses overtime and travel costs to assist.
Under current Cal Poly free expression policies, student organizations are only responsible for fees connected to normal security required for an event of similar size and location, a trend among other universities across the country.
“As soon as I, chief of police, say I’m concerned for the safety of the campus […] so I’m going to require we have another 50 officers, that’s not fair to charge you for that,” Hughes said. “If I deem that I need extra, then that is on the campus.”
This policy is currently under review.
Hughes drew on the events at University of California, Berkeley following Yiannopoulos’ appearance at Cal Poly to support increased security.
“They did not do everything proactively like we did. The campus literally burnt. People were hurt, people went to jail. For damage to property, it was triple the amount for the cost of that than we spent on security beforehand,” Hughes said. “It’s like an insurance policy; we’ll pay several thousand dollars upfront so we’re not paying hundreds of thousand dollars down the road, past the litigation, because someone got hurt.”
The Fake News Panel is a collaboration between the College Republicans and the Cal Poly chapter of Turning Point USA. In addition to Yiannopoulos, the event will feature conservative YouTube personalities Austen Fletcher, known online as Fleccas, and Carl Benjamin, known as Sargon of Akkad. Tickets are required to attend.