The Hancock College board of trustees will decide the future of campus law enforcement officers Tuesday, as they vote to keep or shutter the embattled campus police department.

A three-page abstract included in December's agenda indicates trustees must choose to either maintain the presence of sworn law enforcement officers on campus or cut the department and replace it with a safety department of nonsworn public safety officers.

In an accompanying memo written by Hancock College President Kevin Walthers, trustees were presented with a full assessment of the Hancock College Police Department, completed by interim police Chief Ronald Schram, ahead of their Dec. 12 meeting. Walthers, who received the report from Schram, included the abstract of Schram's assessment after deciding against releasing the full document.

"Because the report includes an assessment of the skills and training of employees," Walthers wrote of the assessment, "staff does not recommend making this a public document unless those sections are redacted."

Schram was hired as interim chief in August following more than a year of tumult and uncertainty — including the abrupt resignation of former police Chief Paul Grohowski and creation of a committee to review campus police options. Schram's assessment, much like the three Grohowski issued to campus administrators prior to his resignation, evaluated various aspects of the police department and presented recommendations to trustees.

Under the current organizational structure, Schram heads a department comprised of 12½ full-time equivalent employees. As chief, Schram oversees a sergeant, two dispatch technicians, four sworn police officers and 4½ safety officers at a cost of roughly $990,000 per year.

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The proposed campus safety department would strip the chief, sergeant and officers of their status as sworn police officers. The department would be comprised of 13 full-time equivalent employees, including a director, supervisor, records coordinator, dispatch technician and nine nonsworn campus safety officers. The shift would provide approximately $100,000 in savings, largely resulting from salary reductions associated with the shift to nonsworn officers. 

While no proposed salary schedule was presented for the safety department's director and supervisor, police officers could face a substantial decrease in monthly salary. Salary schedules provided by the California School Employees Association (CSEA) indicate starting salary for a nonsworn safety officer is $2,798 per month — more than 30 percent lower than the $4,212 earned per month by a police officer.

Conversion of the campus police department into a campus safety department would result in elimination of the sworn officer positions and constitute a layoff due to lack of work. Agreements between the college and CSEA mandate that employees receive a 60-day notice prior to being laid off, and that they be presented with the opportunity to elect a voluntary demotion to a vacancy or retain reemployment and promotional rights for 39 months.

Additionally, the district could choose to bargain with the union and agree to move the employee to a lower level position at their current salary schedule. Union leaders have been assured that employees would be offered a position on campus that would maintain their current pay rates, according to Walthers' memo.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.