2015 saw the retirement of UC Merced’s founding Chief of Police and the hiring of Dr. Albert Vasquez. Dr. Vasquez is UC Merced’s Assistant Vice Chancellor, Campus Safety and second Chief of Police. His dual role allows him to combine Environmental Health and Safety, Risk Services including Worker’s Comp, and Fire and Building Safety Services under a campus “safety” umbrella, creating a single point for decision making.
The Police Department’s Operations Division consists of uniformed police officers, an Investigation Unit, Community Service Officers (CSOs) and community outreach services. The division continues to be a leader in community oriented policing through its various focused outreach activities and through its holistic approach to law enforcement in a university setting.
The department’s uniformed police officers are responsible for patrolling the university campus and off-campus facilities. They also patrol in patrol vehicles, on foot, and on bicycles. The officers are the first responders to all incidents on campus and handle various criminal and non-criminal matters. Additionally, they are also involved in coordinating many of the departments outreach and educational programs including the Mentor Program, Citizen Police Academy, Violent Intruder Response Training (VIRT) and Rape Aggression Defense (RAD).
The Investigation unit consists of a detective with general supervision from the police captain. The detective conducts complex criminal investigations and follow-up investigations on cases generated by patrol officers. The detective also serves victims of crimes as a single point of contact as their cases progresses through the criminal justice system. The division’s investigative efforts have helped to minimize the university’s financial loss due to theft, property damage, lost productivity and unnecessary exposure to liability.
November 4th Critical Incident
On November 4th, 2015, UC Merced experienced a tragic criminal act which brought the institution to a standstill. On that morning, a UC Merced student walked into his classroom and stabbed one of his classmates then tried to attack others in the class. After being confronted by a classmate, the responsible student fled out of the classroom. He stabbed a construction worker as he fled out and then attacked and injured several other students in the main walkway of the campus.
The quick actions of students notifying dispatch followed by good dispatching allowed the UC Merced Police Officers to respond quickly. Almost immediately, the officer saw the student/suspect fleeing and began chasing him. The student/suspect was confronted by UC Merced Police Officers seconds later. The student/suspect was shot and killed by a UC Merced Police Officer after he lunged at the officer with the knife and refused to follow directions to put the knife down.
An intensive investigation followed which involved several local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. During the critical days and weeks following the initial incident, all of our sister UC Police Department’s came to support the UC Merced Police Department. The efforts were instituted to calm any fears related to safety and security for the campus community.
This was a success with much of campus life having returned to a relative sense of normalcy. Although the department faces staffing challenges, the department remains committed to maximizing its available resources to provide the best possible service to the campus community.
Police Mentor Program
The Mentor Program provides an extremely valuable community service to the campus, and to the local elementary schools (Alicia Reyes Elementary, Margaret Sheehy Elementary) and the greater Merced community.
Under the guidance of UC Merced Police staff, the mentors serve as positive role models for at-risk youth showing them that through education and hard work, the youngster’s dreams are possible. The program helps parents, schools, and the community invest in the future of our community through our children. Mentors provide a positive alternative to negative influences such as gangs, drugs, and crime. The program opens doors to higher education, which many elementary school students don't realize or exist or feel is out of reach for them. In 2015, the program logged 612.5 hours of elementary school related service with over 400 Elementary School Mentees Served.
Community Service Officer (CSO Program)
The CSOs, who are student employees, provide a wide range of department services to the community. Those services include safety escorts on campus, bicycle and electronic registration, security at university events on and off campus, and safety and education programs focused around community awareness.
CSO event programmers are widely utilized to promote the department’s services and to educate the community about public safety issues. CSO Web/Social Media assistants also promote the department’s services through the department’s website and social media.
This year, the CSO program provided the following:
- 1,170 Safety Escorts
- 177 Public Assists
- 8,615.64 total hours worked
- 696 Bike/Electronic Items Registered
Citizen Police Academy
The Citizen Police Academy educates community participants about various aspects of law enforcement and community service. Participants are exposed to a variety of topics through classroom discussions, presentations and interactive exercises including scenarios. This program is designed to provide participants with a better understanding of the criminal justice system and how it relates to law enforcement in a university setting. The program has received recognition by the California State Legislature. In 2015, 14 people including students, staff and community members participated in the Citizen Police Academy.
Throughout the year, Police Operations provides topic specific trainings and educational opportunities for community members. Training requests can be made by individuals, campus department, community groups and student groups.
The department had 86 training and educational presentations throughout 2015. Training programs and educational opportunities offered throughout the year include:
- Duress Alarm Procedures trainings
- Workplace and Personal Safety Presentations
- Violent Intruder Response Training (VIRT)
- Alcohol Awareness Week
- Spring and Fall Student Orientations
- Rape Aggression Defense
Internal Collaborations and Partnerships
The Division works with other campus units and is part of a number of committees and groups to help the university fulfill its mission and achieve its goals. Some of these partnerships include:
- Student Response Team
- Parking Advisory Committee
- Project 2020
- Undocumented Student Advisory Committee
- Fleet Safety Committee
- New Student Orientation Planning
- Behavioral Intervention Team
- Commencement 2015
- Numerous Student Events
External Collaboration and Partnerships
The Operations Division works with other public safety agencies, community groups and entities outside of the university to help the university fulfill its mission and achieve its goals. Some of these partnerships include:
- Crime Stoppers: Countywide Criminal Investigation
- Re-Direct: Youth Crime Prevention Effort
- DVRT: Countywide Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigations Response Team
- Cal Maci: Countywide Missing Children Investigation
- ComVIP- Community Violence Intervention Program
- Strategic Prevention Framework State Initiative Grant (SPFSIG)
- AVOID 11 Countywide DUI Enforcement Effort
- Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run
- Merced County Chief’s and Sheriff’s Association
Police Support Services
Police Support Services consist of police dispatch and the administrative staff within the police department. Within this area is also police records, evidence control, Livescan services, and the campus lost and found. In 2015, this area lost two employees when they were transferred to the new campus Administrative Coordination Team (ACT).
In 2015, the department’s Violence Prevention Program was transferred to Office of Campus Culture and Compliance and renamed Campus Advocacy, Resources & Education (CARE).
As the 2020 campus project breaks ground in 2016, the department is working to make sure that it is position to provide the very best police services possible. It is looking to grant opportunities, partnerships, and innovative practices to be on the cutting edge of police service. The men and women of the department know the challenges coming with growth and are ready for the challenge.