Graphic by Griffin Mancuso.

UPD still doesn’t have a police chief


by Brad Butterfield

After a spring semester that saw The University Police Department’s force spread so thin that single-officer patrols were a norm, they have recently hired two new dispatchers, promoted an officer to sergeant, and hired one new officer. While slightly better than before, the department’s staffing issues have forced many members of its small team to still work long hours with few days off. Despite the successful recent hirings, the department remains without a permanent police chief and ever-cautious in its search for a new one. The still understaffed force has had to rely on its committed team working overtime to remain functional.

As many students will have been made aware of through the UPD’s advisory emails, it has been a hectic start to the fall semester. The last two weeks have seen an uncharacteristic barrage of criminal activity on our typically peaceful campus among the redwoods. From “Suspicious Bags Found in Wildlife & Fisheries Building” to “Trespassing Arrest at the Children’s Center” and a tragic “Collision That Injured Student” at one of the campus’s few intersections which left a student in critical condition, this has been an unusually chaotic start to the semester. 

Throughout this spring semester, Lieutenant Peter Cress filled the role of police chief in addition to his normal duties as lieutenant. Currently, Fernando Solozano, a retired police chief from Long Beach, has stepped in as interim chief until a permanent one is finally hired. 

Unfortunately, a timeline for the hiring of a permanent chief is difficult to nail down with so many factors at play. Even if the perfect candidate showed up on Harpst street tomorrow, they’d still need to go through a full background check, potential recertifications and additional police academy training (depending on where they transferred from). So, it will likely be exactly a while-longer before Cal Poly Humboldt has a permanent police chief.

On top of all that, hiring a police chief for a university – especially one as unique as Cal Poly Humboldt – has a number of additional hurdles as compared to your average city police department. Most notably are the Clery Act and Title IX federal civil rights, which affect police operations on a university campus distinctly from those at a typical city police department.

Moreover, the bureaucracy of a college campus means that a very unique skillset and experience is necessary to perform the job tactfully.

“The CSU system has its own challenges in different ways. It’s not just a police department in a town where you can go to your mayor and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ We have our presidents and we have our chancellor, so we have lots of different steps… What would be nice is if we had somebody who is familiar with the CSU system, who is eager to grow a police department, and comes in with knowledge, all those things,” Martin said before adding, “we’re not looking for a unicorn, but I mean, kind of we’re looking for somebody who can do all of that.”

The chief of the police sets the tone for the entire department, Martin explained. They look fifteen years down the line and act as captain of the ship, adjusting course towards innovation and progress. The fact that the department has been absent a chief for so many months and remains not only functional but reliable, serves as testament to the unwavering dedication of each member of the department. Importantly, though the search for a permanent police chief remains a top priority for the department, they are not rushing the process and will not pull the trigger unless the fit is perfect.

 “Our VP [Sherie Gordon] has a very set criteria of what she wants to hire. She just doesn’t want to settle. She wants somebody who’s going to do justice to the police department and our campus,” Martin said.

Martin’s explanation for the still vacant chief position hinted that perhaps having no police chief is better than having the wrong police chief. 

“It’s about finding somebody who wants to be here, who is willing to put in the work,” Martin said before continuing, “Somebody who’s progressive, understands what we’re trying to do here. And we’ve struggled at finding a very qualified person that can slide into that role and help our police department grow.”

This spring saw the lean department frequently functioning with only one officer on duty at any given time. 

The recent new hires have eased that strain slightly but they’re currently still running some single person patrols, as they are having trouble finding qualified officers. 

Aware of the mounting need for more personnel, the UPD have put together an incentive package and have hired a firm to recruit nationwide to find fitting candidates. A common theme in talking about the difficulties in hiring was UPD’s emphasis on hiring the right candidate. They are not interested in hiring just anybody so that they have additional boots on the ground. They’ve got to be the right boots. And of course, this is Humboldt – they’ve got to have the right vibe.

“We are not just filling boxes and trying to put a cop in a seat just because I need a number. I’ve got people who are willing to come here,” Martin said. “We just want people who are going to be a positive addition to the police department and how they interact with our community and how they’re willing to change and how they’re willing to grow.” 

“We are looking for the right people to be a part of that police department as we grow,” Martin emphasized. 

Remaining a community based police force appears to be a top priority for the department when considering new hires.

“Our community as a whole is more laid back,” Martin said. “100% we want to be able to be part of that culture.”

The understaffed department has relied on its indomitable staff to keep the peace on campus. 

“It’s been the staff. The staff is really the reason that we’re still moving forward and getting stuff done,” Martin said. “A lot of overtime for different people, a lot of hours are being put in and everybody’s just still getting the work done.”

Martin put in about thirty hours of overtime last month, with this month’s overtime hours quickly racking up. Impressive as that is, dispatcher Jennifer Gomes’ work schedule borders on super-human.

“I have, technically, one full day off this month. My normal schedule is day-shift Sunday through Wednesday,” Gomes said. “But I’m covering graves for the second half of the week right now, and then my one day off for the week is the day that I rotate back to day shift. So, I sleep all day to try to accommodate coming back to day-shift.” 

With two new dispatch trainees set to complete their training in October, respite is on the way. The dispatch ‘family’ will be back to three days off per week with just one dispatcher role left to fill. An unsung hero of Humboldt, Gomes explained her reasoning for weathering the recent tough times at the UPD. 

“Everybody’s pulled their weight, come together kind of as a family and just pushed through the staffing issues,” said Gomes. “Just push through the hard times here, we’re all coming out of it.”

With millions upon millions being put toward Cal Poly Humboldt’s expansion, it seems the unstoppable force of dollar-driven change is also working overtime here in Humboldt county. Change is a comin’. 

“As our faculty and our staff grow, there are gonna be different expectations as we modernize our campus and in the directions that we had. So, we’re also gonna have to keep up,” Martin said. “We want to maintain that same service that we’ve had, we want to be able to have these conversations. We want to be able to play pool with our students and whatever events and be accessible and always there. And that’s one of the things we look for when we’re trying to hire people.”

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