Southwestern College’s Police Department needs to be stopped and frisked. Its chief needs to be cuffed and led away.
Shocking charges of systemic years-long sexual harassment and attempted rape in the SWCPD outlined in a lawsuit are somehow not shocking at all. Chief Michael Cash and some (not all) SWCPD personnel have been cavalier toward sexual assault on this campus and have intentionally misled this community about the severity of the problem by keeping inaccurate records and downplaying a very serious malignancy.
It would be untrue to say that relations between civilians and officers are shaky.There are no meaningful relations. Our police do not know us and we do not know them. Most students cannot identify a single officer on campus. Cash’s dysfunctional methods of “public safety” are to have officers parking their empty cars randomly around campus and watching video back at HQ. Interaction with students and employees is virtually nonexistent. SWC’s campus police are invisible. Yet, magically, we are supposed to trust in them to protect us.
This is not a superhero movie. We do not need our protectors to have a secret identity, wear a cloak of anonymity and surreptitiously monitor video in a hollowed-out volcano. We need friendly, engaged cops who walk the beat. We need professional men and women who are visible, accessible and trustworthy. We need community policing at Southwestern College.
Community policing is democracy in action. More important, community policing works. Don’t take our word for it, ask Dr. Adolfo Gonzalez, the legendary former National City Police Chief who integrated community policing and cut a violent city’s murder rate to zero. Crime plunged, fueling a Renaissance in the long-beleaguered community. Ask former Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejerano, who used community policing to make Chula Vista the 10th safest city in America.
Community policing is a U.S. Department of Justice initiative created in 1994 and employed successfully in hundreds of American towns and cities. Southwestern College is, once again, late to the party. In fact, we are going directly backwards, away from engagement and trust, and headlong into isolation and suspicion. Instead of proactive partner, Cash is a reactive overlord.
Community policing is a long-term strategy that encourages officers to get to know their community and make connections. Community-oriented law enforcement is about committing to people, working to walk in their shoes and aiding conflict resolution. By every quantifiable measure it works. It works very well.
We know many of our better SWCPD officers are itching to use community policing strategies, but have been hamstrung by Cash. Our chief is a bully and a bullshit artist who has lost the respect of his officers and most of the campus.
Cash is reckless (firing weapons indoors), has engaged in cover-ups (using the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights to hide his mistakes and tamping down sexual assault data) and misogyny (victim shaming and permitting rape culture in the SWCPD).
Speaking of misogyny, is there a reason all of our sworn officers are male?
Cash told us last year he had hired a female officer, Emalee Pallis, but that was another lie. She was not a sworn officer, but an a RAD Instructor who Cash masqueraded as a uniformed sworn officer who carried a gun. When the deception came to light, Pallis was let go the same day, which means SWCPD is a testosterone-only club again. Cash did similar illegal hiring for other high-ranking former SWCPD officers, including sergeants he was not authorized to hire at all.
A police force should not look like a frat house, but ours often does. If a police chief and his officers are more concerned with protecting one another than holding each other accountable, the murky culture will not change.
Our new president Dr. Kindred Murillo has many serious issues to deal with, one of which is our dysfunctional campus police. We hope she can devote some time and energy to transforming our police department.
She speaks often of the importance of a civil, transparent culture. She is so right. We need to transform this campus away from silos and fiefdoms, and toward transparent, service-oriented leadership.
Cash, alas, is beyond repair. He needs to go.