The Community Service Officers program of the Sacramento State University Police Department has grown substantially since its inception and plans to expand further after receiving university funding of about $100,000.
Funding was awarded to the program through the Instructionally Related Activities grant and the Administration and Business Affairs department because of the impact community service officers have on campus.
“Even though they are not sworn officers, they have a presence on campus,” said Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mike Lee. “It’s a good deterrent for any criminal intention. The more officers there are, the more they are able to reach more corners of the universities.”
Until this semester, the only funding provided to the Community Service Officers program was through recharges from on-campus department savings paid and requested for community service officer services in strategic spots.
“This semester we have 60 CSOs, which is 20 more than usual,” said Sac State Police Chief Mark Iwasa. “Deployment of CSOs are based on monthly crime statistics. We require a certain number of them to deal with areas we refer to as hot spots.”
The program began in 2000 with a staff limited to four officers.
But community service officers were not fully operational until fall 2011, when university police was able to hire more than 30 students.
Funding will be distributed throughout the program in order to maintain community service officer uniforms and security equipment, as well as hire more students to expand security on campus.
This week alone,19 interviews were conducted for new community service officers.
“People are now requesting CSOs. It seems like almost every week, there is a new task that we are able utilize the CSOs,” said Community Service Officer Coordinator Sgt. Vic Vinson. “Anyone coming in early in the morning can see we have CSOs at the south and north end of campus directing traffic in order to expedite people getting in.”
Iwasa said approximately 20 crimes are committed every month at Sac State, which he considers a low rate compared to previous semesters.
Although there has been minimal crime activity on campus, the experience of working side-by-side with police officers is what community service officers value from the program.
“Everything I learn in academy, I’ve learned here,” said community service officer and senior criminal justice major David Klosinski. “I’m not as nervous as some of the people who haven’t been CSOs when it comes to things like radio and police code.”
The program consists of students who are either paid interns or volunteers for school credit.
Criminal justice majors, like Klosinski, are required to complete 120 hours of service by the end of each semester to count toward an internship course.
Klosinski has been a CSO for two and a half years and said he believes he is more prepared for a future career in criminal justice because of the program.
“When I graduate, I’ll be familiar with how a police office runs, what the chain of command is, policies and everyday types of procedures,” Klosinski said.
Community service officers patrol on foot, bikes or carts for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The number of officers on duty depend on peak hours, on-campus games or events held on campus.
“CSOs are often the first people who recognize suspicious activity on campus,” Iwasa said. “They patrol in designated spots and at events to call us in if they suspect security hazards.”
In addition to being the main security for patrolling the campus and residence halls, community service officers also speak to students about crime prevention and act as the main resources on how to do so.
As the first line of defense, the student officers are considered to be the “eyes and ears” for the Sac State University Police Department on campus.
“They learn that it’s okay to make mistakes. We don’t need drones or people who are just task oriented,” Vinson said. “We’ll always try to find ways to evolve and improve the program. They get better at public speaking, relating to people, face-to-face interaction or being able to think on their feet – they all become stakeholders in the university.”