Photo by Carols Pedraza | Cal Poly Humboldt UPD cars and SUVs line up near Student and Business Services.

Police chief candidate views cause concern among students

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by Carlos Pedraza

The Chief of Police Search Committee held an open forum on Wednesday, Oct. 19 for students to ask questions of Thomas Calucci, one of the police chief candidates. A Cal Poly Humboldt email stated the meeting was being held in the Library Fishbowl but was changed at the last minute to the Great Hall above the Marketplace. In total, only two students were present to ask questions.

Calucci is a former police captain from the University of Texas at San Antonio and was a member of the Behavioral Intervention Team, an organization that provides mental health checks. While at UTSA, Calucci collaborated with school counseling faculty to provide crisis training to university police.

Calucci wants to bring a similar program to Cal Poly Humboldt.  

“I want social workers to ride with our police officers,” Calucci said. 

He went on to explain how he wanted police to integrate with the community and was against the us vs. them mentality of the thin blue line.

“I need our cops to understand at this university, we are not here to kick ass and take names, we are here to protect you all,” Calucci said.

Still, Calucci made it clear his main goal was to protect the university from those whom he saw as outsiders. 

“I’m fairly certain that somewhere, someone in this community has a grievance against this university,” Calucci said. “Whether it be a faculty member or other student, I’m fairly certain that person is planning revenge… I wanna be here to protect you from them, not from yourself.”  

When Calucci was asked who “them” was, he answered, “there are people who intend to do you harm, those are the people who I don’t like.” 

Calucci appears to understand that policing has caused problems, specifically citing police-related generational trauma. Though he is aware of it, Calucci does not consider it his role to solve this problem. 

“I did not sign up for the things you are asking me to do,” Calucci said.

Humboldt student Elizabeth Rubio explained how the police system has a history of racism, prejudice, and violence, and asked how Calucci would handle prejudice in his staff and himself. 

“First thing you said is we live in a racist society and that sucks you feel that way.” Calucci said. He acknowledged that racism was present in society. “ If I could wave a magic wand and make it go away I would because of that crap,” Calucci said in response to Rubio.  

Rubio proceed to asked if Calucci was aware of the murder of Josiah Lawson and the case surrounding the alledged murder. Calucci said he saw a sign supporting Justice for Josiah, but he did not know any specifics of the case.

Rubio also asked about the police response to student homelessness. Calucci said police would not harass students sleeping in cars and wanted them to feel safe. He stated his main goal was to get students off the streets and find temporary housing for them. 

Jue Smith, the other student at the forum, felt that both police chief candidates were unprepared. 

“Neither candidate did their homework about this area or legislation that’s been passed,” Smith said.

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