By Collin Slavey and James Wilde
HSU officers cast an almost unanimous vote of no confidence in police chief
The Statewide University Police Association published a press release on Monday stating that officers of the Humboldt State University Police Department submitted an almost unanimous vote of no confidence in Police Chief Donn Peterson.
Nine of the ten officers in the department cast a “no confidence” vote while one abstained. Peterson has allegedly manipulated crime reports, frequently left the office to go out of state, created a hostile discriminatory work environment and violated labor laws.
In a phone interview with Peterson, he said he does not agree with the allegations. However, he enthusiastically supported the association’s examination.
“I have a profound respect for the seriousness of the allegations and the people who made them,” Peterson said. “So I want to respect that.”
Peterson said he wants to be as transparent as possible, but he hopes to continue to be the UPD Chief.
Associated Students President Yadira Cruz said she was surprised when she learned about the vote on Monday.
“I was genuinely shocked,” Cruz said. “Like what the fuck?”
After thinking about it more, Cruz said she wasn’t all that surprised. Cruz said UPD’s problems probably go beyond the chief.
HSU’s Vice President for Administration and Finance Douglas Dawes sent out a campus memo at 4:50 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30. Dawes said he has high expectations for all employees within UPD and remains committed to helping them be effective.
“Chief Peterson and his team have enhanced outreach to students through the Chief’s Advisory Panel, created the safety escort program, and worked closely with Equity Arcata,” the memo said. “We will thoroughly investigate all of the allegations brought to our attention.”
While the Justice for Josiah movement previously worked closely with UPD, they also inspired the Chief’s Advisory Panel. On Monday the Justice for David Josiah Lawson Facebook page posted a call to action in regards to the news.
“Who is going to protect our students, because it is obvious Humboldt State does not give a damn about their safety?” the post read. “It’s time to start cleaning house President Tom Jackson, get rid of the slackers. Put OUR students first.”
The press release noted that the vote does not automatically oust Peterson. However, UPD Officer Billy Kijsriopas hopes a new chief will take Peterson’s place.
“The damage to morale and the risk to campus safety is too great,” Kijsriopas said in the memo. “It’s past time we had a new chief.”
The full press release from Statewide University Police Association:
Arcata, CA. — According to officials with the Statewide University Police Association (SUPA), its officers at the Humboldt State University Police Department have cast a vote of no confidence in the Department’s police chief, Donn Peterson. Nine of 10 officers who completed the survey voted against the Chief, while the remaining voter abstained.
SUPA conducts annual leadership surveys at each CSU campus. The most recent nearly unanimous vote of no confidence in Police Chief Donn Peterson is in line with previous year’s results. Chief Peterson took the job at HSU after leaving his former post with Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Department amid scandal. Peterson still regularly spends time out of state with his family in Florida.
According to HSU Officer Billy Kijsriopas, “Chief Peterson’s frequent, extended bouts of time out of state leave the department in the hands of a Lieutenant who also spends an unusual amount of time away from campus. Our officers look to the Chief for guidance and leadership, but he has fallen short of the standards they and the University community deserve.”
According to Officer Kijsriopas, absenteeism is only a fraction of the failure in leadership the Department has seen since Peterson came to HSU in January 2015. Among the Chief’s other offenses, Kijsriopas cites manipulation of crime statistics reporting, creating a hostile work environment including making racial slurs aimed at minority officers, multiple violations of the Public Safety Officer’s Procedural Bill of Rights Act and blatant violations of labor laws that include a derogatory, anti-labor letter which Peterson authored and posted publically [sic].
Says SUPA president Jeff Solomon, “Our members in the Humboldt State University Police Department have consistently reported absenteeism, mismanagement and more in departmental leadership. When you have a department united like this, clearly there is a problem.”
When asked what steps he and other HSU officers would like to see, Kijsriopas replied, “The damage to morale and the risk to campus safety is too great – it’s past time we had a new chief.”