Tuesday, August 23, 2016
[San Mateo County] Community college officials defend safety policy: Grand jury response designed to illustrate district’s commitment to campus security
San Mateo County Community College District officials claimed they are examining ways to beef up security policies and ensure those on district campuses are as safe as possible, according to a recent report.
Officials expressed the position as part of a formal reaction to a San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury report issued last month identifying alleged shortcomings of the district’s security policy.
The district Board of Trustees approved during a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 17, the response addressing perceived flaws identified by the grand jury such as unreliable communications to local law enforcement agencies and inadequate training for addressing campus emergencies.
Chancellor Ron Galatolo said as officials eye emergency response protocol, maintaining the health and wellness of those who frequent district campuses is a primary focus.
“First and foremost, the safety of faculty, students and the visiting community is paramount to us,” he said.
The district maintains its own private security team of unarmed personnel at the College of San Mateo as well as Cañada and Skyline Colleges who must contact local law enforcement agencies should an emergency occur.
To connect with the police, district security guards must depend on either cellphones or radios which the grand jury claims occasionally suffer spotty and unreliable coverage.
Though the district is the midst of expanding cellphone and radio coverage on their campuses, officials believe the alliance with local law enforcement agencies is largely satisfactory, according to the response.
“The current district security director and his predecessor have both worked to develop excellent relationships between our public safety department and state and local law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical service providers and emergency managers countywide,” according to the report. “We embrace these open and constructive relationships. In addition, we support the improvement of cellular communications provider systems as they benefit emergency notifications to the first responder community through mobile phones on district properties.”
The district is in the process of authoring its own public safety report due at the end of the year and officials expect many concerns raised by the grand jury will be addressed in the forthcoming document, according to the response.
To protect against the threat of an active shooter at a school site, the grand jury recommended more trainings be available to faculty and students ensuring everyone on district campuses are adequately prepared to survive a potentially tragic scenario.
The district offers a variety of suggestions on its website regarding best practices for conduct during an emergency, according to the response, and officials plan to work with the admissions office in coming semesters to ensure all incoming students are informed regarding the existing protocol.
Beyond the information available online, the district hosts training seminars such as campus crisis workshops open to staff, faculty and students in which attendees are able to discuss proper responses to earthquakes, shelter in place scenarios and other similar situations.
The most recent training held on a district campus addressed severe weather emergencies and natural disasters, according to the response, and included expert contributions from San Bruno first responders, the San Mateo Police Department, California Highway Patrol, San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and more.
Ultimately, the response indicates the district’s forthcoming safety study will comprehensively address many of the potential security shortfalls identified in the grand jury report.
“We believe that the in-progress public safety study that is underway will gather research and lead us toward additional best practices in campus safety, while reviewing structure, policies, and procedures on campus,” according to the report. “We believe that the public safety study will address mitigation strategies including the use of current technology, and the direct and indirect liabilities associated with such mitigation strategies.”
August 22, 2016
San Mateo Daily Journal
By Austin Walsh