Search for police chief continues
The Chief of Police Search Committee has invited the campus community to take part in a series of open forums in which students and faculty are allowed to get to know and question the finalists for the vacant chief of police position. The most recent forum took place on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. in Schulz 3001. The community became acquainted with finalist Elyas Malik and his plans for Sonoma State.
"I started my career in campus policing 29 years ago. I fell in love with the job," said Malik.
Upon graduating the FBI National Academy, Malik began working at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey. He quickly climbed the ranks to work as deputy chief and commander.
After 25 years of service in New Jersey, Malik opted to become the manager of safety and security at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He was assigned to enhance the physical security of the school using electronics (i.e. emergency phones, security cameras, etc.).
"My background is custom tailored to campus policing," said Malik.
As the forum opened up, Lisa Wyatt, director of counseling services, and Heather Martin, director of campus life, quickly voiced their concerns about the lack of communication between their departments, campus police and the community of Rohnert Park.
"I want to instill a true sense of community policing. The students, faculty and I need to work together," said Malik.
Napoleon Reyes, a member of the Chief of Police Search Committee, was in attendance with his Introduction to Criminal Justice class and challenged Malik's philosophy.
"All candidates talk about community oriented policing," said Reyes. "We want to see how they apply their policies and how they've used their specific policies in different settings."
"The geographic location may have changed but my purpose has not," said Malik. "These are the best four years of their (the students) lives. It is my job to provide a safe environment for them."
Malik has been responsible for multiple policy implementations in the past and expressed the desire to continue down this path.
His plans included increased patrol to prevent crimes of opportunity, improving lighting on dark paths and setting up cameras to survey public areas. The proposal of cameras was met with some resistance by the forum's crowd but Malik insisted the cameras would only be in common areas (specifically entrances and exits).
"I don't want students to get in trouble. College is a learning experience," said Malik.
Malik said emphasized that one of the improvements he'd like to see if hired was increased visibility.
"I won't sit in the office. I'll walk around out there," said Malik.
For instance, he created a program relating to visibility called the Officer Familiarity Program. In order for students to feel closer to their safety officers, Malik plans to carry on this program of placing flyers up with images and information about local patrollers.
"I think having the officers around more could potentially keep our school safer," said Ryan Holmes, a third year student at Sonoma State.
After the forum had ended, Reyes challenged whether or not Malik's visibility stance would keep students safe.
"Some part of that is true, some part is not," said Reyes.
Reyes' uncertainty stemmed from a professional experiment taught in his Introduction to Criminal Justice class. Findings from the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment declared that the increased visibility of officers led to more positive attitudes toward the police but it had no influence on reported crime or victimization.
There is one more forum scheduled for February with Sally Miller, the interim police chief. Date and time are to be announced.
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