Illustration by August Linton

UPD understaffed and overworked, search for chief continues

A ride-along with Humboldt university police reveals challenges

by Brad Butterfield

Four officers provide 24/7 emergency response to over 6,000 students and faculty at Cal Poly Humboldt. While patrolling the campus grounds Feb. 2, Sergeant Andy Martin detailed how staffing shortages have stretched the force thin. 

“If we stay short-handed, something has to give somewhere, and it might be the quality of our calls,” Martin said. 

Dispatchers are working twelve hour shifts for weeks on end. Officers are forced to respond to calls without backup, on top of running a part-time shuttle service. Compounding these issues, the UPD does not have a police chief. 

“We want to be that community-based police department. We work really hard to achieve that,” Martin said. 

Staffing issues have not only made the job more difficult, but also needlessly more dangerous. 

“There was a call I went on last year, where a transient was on campus with a knife, which is a felony level crime. Arcata [Police Department] couldn’t send anybody because they were caught up and I was here by myself,” Martin said.

Another time, the sergeant responded to an alleged domestic violence dispute. Martin was the only officer on campus that day.

“It’s very hard to detain two people by yourself,” he said. “We have agreements with the CSU that minimal standards are generally considered two officers on at all times, 24/7. But we’ve been short officers for so long. Now we have just single officers at a time.”

The satellite properties around Humboldt County that the university now owns are also patrolled by the UPD.

“Our expanded footprint is quickly becoming an issue,” Martin said. “I am the only officer working right now. So, if I’m here checking on this property, then I am not on campus.”

The university’s “bridge” housing system presents a transportation problem to a university that is already struggling to meet current students’ needs. The UPD has been acting as a shuttle service for the students housed three miles north of campus in the Comfort Inn. 

“Yesterday I transported four students myself. Someones gotta do it,” Martin said. “It goes back to staffing issues. Everybody is left scrambling. We don’t want it to be any of our students that are suffering because of it.”

Inside the campus police station, dispatcher Jennifer Gomes sits at the helm, facing an extensive assemblage of screens. Gomes revealed the consequences of an understaffed dispatch center.

“This is my 18th day in a row, 12 hour shifts,” Gomes said. “I love it, though. I love the unknown.”

 Gomes said that positive work culture at the station is one of the reasons she has stuck around.

 Without a police chief, UPD’s single lieutenant is forced to fill the role in the interim. The strain of absent leadership is dispersed through the entire force. 

The UPD says they’re working to fill the position as quickly as possible, but it is a multi-stage hiring process with many potential delays. In addition to background checks, medical tests, polygraph tests, and a psychological evaluation, there is also an eclectic group of community members that candidates for chief must interview with. 

Candidates go through the committee process, speaking with two people from the police department, along with representatives from the leadership team, athletics, resident managements, students, and the chief of the Arcata Police Department.

“[It’s] a whole collection of people that provide feedback and opinions on how the candidate did,” said Martin.

 Ultimately, the decision is made by the University president and vice president. Candidate Kevin H. Williams recently answered questions at a search committee led forum on March 2nd. Still, it is anyone’s guess when CPH will again have a police chief.

 “The hiring of any police officer usually takes many, many months,” Martin said. “Maybe they’ll start soon. We never know.”

Martin says that the nationwide law enforcement hiring crisis has made the UPD unrecognizable from when he first started. 

“When I applied here eleven years ago, there was an excess of like thirty applicants, because this used to be the place to come,” he said. “The equipment was solid, you’d be working with a solid team, it was community-based policing at its finest. It was what a police department should, and could, look like.”

There are currently only four new applicants for police officer. The required background checks, medical and psychological examinations, and polygraph testing, on top of the training itself, mean that these potential new officers are still months out from serving the Cal Poly Humboldt community. 

“Before I get those applicants on the street, I’ll probably lose another officer,” said Martin. “Redding is offering a $50,000 signing bonus. How do you compete with that?”

Share This Post

More Stories

Nina G uses comedy to start conversations

During the virtual comedy event held by the SDRC, Nina Ghiselli tells her story and emphasizes the importance of student disability resources within schools.

It’s not just the Capitol Police

As the world watched from their televisions on January 6, we witnessed scenes unfold before our eyes that were, to many, unimaginable: supporters of President Trump swarmed the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building, then proceeded to break in and

The San Jose State University Football Team Comes to Humboldt

On a day’s notice from administration, the SJSU football team spends a week and a half in Humboldt practicing because their county did not allow it. Students react to their presence on campus in the midst of a pandemic. Directed

Homelessness in Humboldt, CA

This is the first trailer of a homeless documentary created by HSU students. We have spent months filming and will continue to film throughout the next year. Follow the heartbreaking stories of the homeless community around Humboldt county and the

Thrifty Arcata

Taking a tour of the local thrift shops in Arcata during the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed and produced by Skylar Gaven.

House Plants Generate Peace and Meaning During the Pandemic

Three different people with the same love for plants! House plants have become quite popular these days especially since we’re all basically stuck inside during the pandemic. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but these beautiful green oxygen-makers provide more

Prop 22 represents political favoritism of money over workers’ rights

California’s passing of proposition 22 on Nov. 5 represents a frustrating history of workers’ rights being trampled by the overwhelming influence of greed in politics.  This proposition forces app-based workers to be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This

Remembering Evelyn Andrews 10 months after her passing

By Katelyn Dendas It has been 10 months since my friend, teammate and freshman year dorm mate, Evelyn Andrews, passed away. I don’t remember what the grief counselor said or what transpired after that Monday, but I do remember arriving

Protestors seek to defund HSUPD

Two local, activist organizations work together to stage a sit-in against Humboldt State’s police department.

Getting stuck on the Trump train

Writer Anthony Aragon details his experience of accidentally joining a pro-Trump car rally.

Justin Turner exposes the World Series to COVID-19

Justin Turner didn’t need to be the story in the wake of the Dodgers’ first World Series victory in 32 years. Instead here we are, wondering what sort of, if any, punishment Major League Baseball will decide to hand down

Four more years of fear

News Editor Carlos Holguin explains why he is worried about the next four years.

Dismal democracy

The Lumberjack editorial staff comments on America’s flawed electoral system As the world watches the United States 2020 election results, waiting for our pseudodemocratic process to churn out a new president, historically unprecedented voting methods misrepresents the reported Election Day

The Mario triple pack invokes a nostalgia attack

When I was a child, the first video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Among the games I played was Super Mario 64. I played it all the time and when I wasn’t playing it, I was lying

Women’s lacrosse drops their competitive season

Greta Roberts, president and player of Humboldt State University’s women’s lacrosse team, made the decision with her coach and teammates to cancel the upcoming spring season. The team decided that not being able to recruit in the fall would be

Dobby’s proposition opinions

Haven’t voted yet? Well, you’re running out of time. Here’s a quick rundown of California’s propositions on the ballot this year

Corporations buy out propositions

In a series of general and misleading advertisements, corporate backers of Propositions 22 and 23 show their grubby hands

CDOR continues virtually

The Campus and Community Dialogue On Race returns covering global justice for Black Lives.

Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Local food management practices of the Tolowa Dee-ni, Yurok and other indigenous peoples.

Humboldt State Admin attempts to discredit the Lumberjack

***A Lumberjack editorial represents both the majority opinion of the student newspaper’s editorial board, nine editors, as well as the overwhelming majority of Humboldt State University’s student body. Collectively, an editorial echos, embodies and advocates for community beliefs.*** Insensitive communications

Music of the Moment 6

21 Savage and Metro Boomin drop a classic with “Savage Mode II”

Spartans arrive at HSU despite campus concerns

***Editor’s note: SJSU football program was tested in congruence with Mountain West conference guidelines*** The Spartans have arrived and this time they’re not carrying spears or shields. Instead the San Jose State football team stepped onto the Humboldt State campus

Music of the Moment 5

After shooting Megan Thee Stallion, Tory Lanez cancels himself

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Comparisons between episodes of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone and our own dismal reality

Music of the Moment 4

YoungBoy Never Broke Again dodges the sophomore slump with his new album “Top.”

Self-Care Cuts

Changing your hair to change your life

HSU Seaweed Farm sets sail

The first commercially-approved seaweed farm in California will be on the map.

Music of the Moment 3

For better or worse, Big Sean is likely gone for good.

More Layers, More Protection?

Humboldt State demands double masking on campus, does more layers equal more protection?

The Ethnic Studies Bill is a Blessing

Ethnic Studies will thankfully become mandatory for all California State University students – as it should be.

The Complex Interface of Humans and Wildfires

How fire suppression is a mixed bag in Humboldt County Every fire season, blankets of smoke roll over Humboldt County. Here on the coast, that’s as close to wildfires as some of us get. But our practice of fire suppression

Defund HSU’s Police Department

Incidents of racism from the former UPD Chief, past examples of excessive force from current officers and a shrinking university budget.

How Not To Be Bitten By A Kitten

Please prepare to be prey Congratulations, a baby feline has recently come into your life. If they’re anywhere from 2-18 months, they bite. They see you as prey. Because you are prey. You always have been. You always will be.

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19 In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive

HSU Cultural Center Budget Slashed

Associated Students leaves student body devastated after significant reductions in cultural center’s budget.

All aboard the plague ship

Unprecedented times are met with normalized behavior, HSU puts students and community members at higher risk after reopening campus and student housing.

Music of the Moment

The hip-hop community rallies behind the Black Lives Matter Movement

Inside the Immune System

How the body uses multiple levels of defense against foreign intruders

Catcalling Can’t Continue

Verbal harassment toward women is about control and the assertion of gender discrimination

Major League Marijuana

Why I don’t think marijuana is everything it’s cracked up to be in baseball

Pigs Compost on Campus

CCAT tries to reduce HSU’s food waste footprint through new pig program