Bill Watton, the new Cal Poly chief for the University Police Department, wants all students to feel they can call him directly if they ever have the need.
Seriously, just give him a call.
Watton, who officially replaced former chief Tony Aeilts on June 1, happily hands out business cards that have his direct line on them.
“It’s unusual, but that’s the way I want this department to run,” Watton said.
Watton believes that accessibility and communication are two key factors that the UPD needs in order to have a successful relationship with the community and student population.
“We’re willing to talk with any student, including all the fraternities and sororities and any clubs,” he said.
Watton joined the UPD in 2002, bringing nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience to campus.
Former UPD Chief Tony Aeilts sees Watton as an ideal candidate to take over the position he vacated in January.
“Bill is a consummate professional,” Aeilts said.
Aeilts noted that Watton’s “good character” and experience in municipal and university policing will help make him an effective leader.
Prior to coming to Cal Poly, Watton was a police lieutenant for the city of Atascadero for 12 years, serving 18 months as interim police chief for the city.
However, Watton recognizes that he has different responsibilities now that he is chief of police for a university and not a city.
“Our department is more community policing oriented, more so than a municipal police department,” Watton said.
This translates into an effort to keep an open communication with the campus and surrounding community, which Watton admits will become more difficult as the campus population grows with the addition of more on-campus housing. Watton wants students to be aware of what crime and safety issues can affect them, namely theft and alcohol-related problems.
Watton said that students, especially those new to campus, aren’t aware that theft occurs on campus and should never leave personal belongings unlocked or unattended.
Alcohol is also still a problem on campus, he said and pointed to the fact that all reported sexual assaults last year involved alcohol.
Watton said the UPD will be making presentations in classes and the dorms to increase students’ awareness of crime and safety.
The UPD will also continue to use the new Radio Alert System on AM 1610 to provide the campus with advisories and traffic information.
“Its just one more tool to get information out,” Watton said. “We are dedicated to getting information out.”