Rumors have surfaced across the Cuesta College campus that the school's police department might be closing its doors. Members of the force have grown concerned enough that some of them have drafted a petition of support.
But don't roll a keg out to the school's softball field for a game of sloshball just yet. Cuesta officials say that the idea of dismantling the school's police department was just a hypothetical discussion that took place during a recent board of trustees meeting.
According to Angela Mitchell, president of the Cuesta Board of Trustees, the issue took up a minimal amount of the meeting and was prompted by the recent retirement announcement of Cuesta's first and only police chief and director of public safety, Pete Sysak.
"[Sysak's] retiring triggered a discussion about an opportunity to review Cuesta public safety," said Stephan Gonsaulus, Cuesta's public relations officer. "One can infer from the discussion that Cuesta may try to attach to the county for public safety but this is just in the embryonic stage."
Even if talks are early in the potential process and still theoretical, the discussion involving campus safety has caused a commotion among those involved.
Sysak said that if Cuesta were to abandon its police department, on-campus crime would definitely increase.
"When you have a security guard as opposed as to police officer, it's just not the same," Sysak said. "A security officer's job is to observe and report. So if there was a crime being committed in front of them, they would not be able to take any type of action [other] than call the sheriff's Department."
Questions about the need for a full-fledged campus police department Cuesta officers now are fully sworn and state-certified, carry guns, and have full police powers rise in part because the campus is about a mile away from the San Luis Obispo county sheriff's Department.
Community colleges across the state vary in their approach to police forces. Many have full-fledged forces, but others rely on contracted security workers.
Cuesta's public safety and police issue will be discussed at the board of trustee's Oct. 3 meeting. Gonsaulus emphasized that it's quite possible the board will decide to leave things the way they are.
"Only one board member was on the board when police department was instated," trustee board president Mitchell said. "The rest of us aren't familiar why we have a police force."
"As far as I know, we have some of the lowest crime statistics in the state," Gonsaulus said.
"Because of the relationship between the police department and the students, this is the safest community in SLO County," Sysak said. "And if we dilute those services, it will not remain that way."