San Mateo Community College District reviews security policies

The Public Safety Office at Skyline College, inside building 6.

Brian Silverman/The Skyline View

The Public Safety Office at Skyline College, inside building 6.

The district may be implementing new public safety policies in wake of a report from the San Mateo Grand Jury over the summer.

A San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury report issued on July 5, 2016 regarding safety at all three of the district campuses (Cañada College, Skyline College, and College of San Mateo) found that while “the Grand Jury was impressed with the low level of crime and the effective safety procedures put in place,” there was also significant room for
improvement, especially with high concern stemming from incidents such as the Umpqua Community College shooting in October of 2015.

One of the areas cited for improvement was in communication between campus security and local law enforcement.

Public Safety officers at Skyline College are equipped with one handheld radio that communicate specifically with the San Bruno Police Department, and campus-specific radios that are also used for maintenance calls and campus facilities.

However, the report claims that the radios are somewhat burdensome, and while it still remains a problem, the report also claims that the problem is being addressed by the district Director of Public Safety.

In the case of emergency situations, current policy dictates that a Public Safety Officer (PSO) try to contact law enforcement first using mobile phones, but this can be sometimes hampered by spotty mobile phone coverage on campus, which has been a source of frustration to both faculty and students.

This is especially exacerbated when there is no mobile phone reception, in which case, a PSO must then radio whoever is closest to the single radio connected to law enforcement, which hinders response times to campus incidents fairly significantly.

Even on top of those hindrances, the Public Safety Committee at Skyline College deals with a wide range of problems, many minor and some larger, which could pull them away from their resource pool.

“We deal with almost everything and anything,” Skyline College Public Safety Officer Daniel Servatius said on the duties of his work.

Servatius mentioned that on Monday, Aug. 23, there were six items in the lost and found, 15 lockouts from classrooms, and four calls for service.

Juggling both the large amount of smaller things to do and the troubles involved in communicating with law enforcement of whether through radio or phone, there is definitely a lot of room of improvement. So what is the district doing to address these issues?

In the district 2016 Public Safety Study, Executive Vice Chancellor Kathy Blackwood outlined some of the ways that they are looking to resolve these issues. For one, the study would look at the security policies at each of the three campuses and review how each of them handle different issues.

As part of this initiative, the district has signed a contract with self-billed “professional services firm,” Margolis Healy, to help the district to review security policies and structure, issuing a final report in November 2016 of this year. Unfortunately, Kathy Blackwood was not available for comment.

Even without the proposed improvements, Skyline College is considered safe by some students.

“I feel comfortable at Skyline,” Skyline student Adrian Ranola said. “I see a lot of security around Skyline, and I think it’s a good thing.”

Other students believe that improvements to security would still be a net benefit as well, such as adding more public safety officers.

“It would be more safe, and more easy to call for help,” Skyline student Kelly DeGuzman said.

Meanwhile, if you need to call Public Safety, Servatius says to call them as soon as possible.

“It makes our job easier if you call right in,” Servatius said.

Margolis Healy will also be holding a student forum on Thursday, Sept. 15 to talk about safety and security at Skyline College.