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061218 Hancock police board

California School Employees Association representative Yvette Andrade expresses concern regarding Santa Maria Police Department's proposal to provide police chief services to the college police department. 

After an unsuccessful recruiting process, the Hancock College trustees on Tuesday opted to restart the search for a new campus police chief.

Two interviews for a potential chief were conducted last month, according to a document presented at Tuesday's board meeting. One of the applicants was deemed viable but opted not to take the job due to a loss of retirement benefits.

The lack of viable candidates prompted staff to pose to trustees the possibility of outsourcing chief services to the Santa Maria Police Department, which said it would be willing to provide the service for $48,000 to $93,000 more than was originally proposed.

"The board of trustees had previously instructed the district that they did not want to outsource police services," California School Employees Association representative Yvette Andrade told the board. Calling the amount of money SMPD requested "absurd," she called the proposal unfair to CSEA members — particularly those who earn $15.71 per hour.

"We do not agree the district should be requesting a salary hike of this amount for one administrative position," she added. "This is being fiscally irresponsible. It's irresponsible with taxpayers' money."

According to Andrade, the amount of money SMPD was requesting for chief services far outpaced compensation for similar community college police chiefs. Hancock College Superintendent Kevin Walthers agreed that the requested compensation was high, and reiterated his support for a establishing a campus security force.

"Many of the colleges along the Central Coast are not using police departments at all," he said. "It's still my belief that the best option for this college is to hire highly trained security officers."

The college has been without a permanent chief since July 2017, when former Police Chief Paul Grohowski abruptly resigned. Originally hired by the college September 2016, Grohowski spent several months evaluating campus policing and security options prior to his resignation. 

In January 2017, Grohowski presented trustees with the recommendation to contract out and consolidate law enforcement operations under the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office.

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"It is my opinion that we should explore the feasibility of consolidating law enforcement services with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office," Grohowski wrote in 2017. "The benefits and increased level of service are too great for our organization not to explore seriously."

After Grohowski's departure, trustees hired Ronald Schram last August to serve as the campus' top cop on an interim basis. Like Grohowski, Schram issued his own evaluation of the campus police department but made no recommendation on the department's future.

In January, the board of trustees voted to retain a sworn police force that serves the college's Santa Maria, Lompoc and Santa Ynez locations. Board President Hilda Zacarias reminded board members that, during the January meeting, concerns about the advertised salary and compensation were raised.

"Our responsibility is for the safety of the staff," she said. "The values that this board has communicated ... is that we want a police department. Remember what we want this person to do when we talk about salaries."

Former Santa Maria Police Sgt. Chris Nartatez currently serves as campus police chief on an interim basis. 

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


Education Reporter

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