For nearly three years our mostly useless police force has shown that it lacks the ability to keep us safe and conduct even the most routine tasks.
Claude Rains, in the cinematic classic “Lawrence of Arabia,” said, “Big things have small beginnings.” Our story begins with a few small holes and a loud bang.
On Aug. 23, 2013, three SWC employees narrowly avoided being shot as a bullet fired at head level by Police Chief Michael Cash seared through a wall. Cash ran out of his office yelling “accidental discharge” and then crumbled into a stuttering mess. He was carted off in an ambulance in shock.
Two employees went out on paid stress leave. One retired, the other is still being paid by the taxpayers. College administrators, shamefully, refuse to release any information about the incident.
There was so much more to come. Here are a few recent examples:
• Sexually abused women were left unprotected and stood up when they were promised escorts. Cash made excuses to the governing board and blamed the victims.
• Sexual assault victims were left pounding on the door of the campus police office while employees inside refused to answer. Telephone calls by victims to campus police who were attempting to report rapes were never returned.
• Former SWCPD student worker Rick Flores was allowed to impersonate Cash with a concocted email to escape SDSU band obligations. Cash allowed Flores to continue for a month and may have sent him on company time to represent an agitprop pamphlet at a meeting involving The Sun. SDSU Band Director James Caestecker said it took him more than a month to get SWCPD to respond.
• Police logs remain out of compliance with the Clery Act, a federal law meant to protect college students and increase transparency. Despite a lengthy front page investigation published in The Sun, the police logs are still a nonfunctioning mess and out of compliance.
• When nearly 50 employees of the college had their identities stolen it was easy to contact and file a report with the IRS and Chula Vista Police Department, said SWC Professor of Theatre Mark Pentilescu. Filing a report with SWCPD, however, has been an endless runaround, he said.
• Upset by a cartoon of him firing his gun through the roof and intense coverage in The Sun, Cash filed a racial discrimination complaint against our advisor. It was laughed out of court by investigators hired by the college at the taxpayer’s expense.
SWCPD has some excellent officers, but horrific leadership. It is time to close down the SWC campus police. The governing board should immediately lance this boil and allow a takeover by the Chula Vista Police Department or the San Diego County Sheriff’s. We need law enforcement in the hands of competent badge-wielding professionals and out of reach of administrators like Mia McClellan, who uses the department like her own street muscle.
There is precedent for a takeover. Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District pulled the plug on its troubled PD in 2013 and contracted with the San Diego County Sheriff’s for law enforcement. Grossmont contracted with SD Sheriff’s as a cost-saving measure and to ensure student safety. SWC’s needs are much more dire.
SWCPD and McClellan, embarrassed by our reporting, have lashed out again and again at journalism students and our advisor. Their actions only verify their wrongdoing and lack of professionalism.
Cash and the department should feel embarrassed, but not as embarrassed as we should be of them. It is time to clean out this stall. Keep the good cops, but clear out Cash and the civilian staff. Subcontract with the Sheriff’s or CVPD. We will save money, save face and save our women from further sexual abuse.