COCC to review public safety dept.; officers placed on paid leave

Central Oregon Community College has placed its public safety officers on paid administrative leave pending a review of the department’s operations.

Jenn Kovitz, a spokeswoman for COCC, declined to say how many officers were employed by the college or whether a specific event sparked the review.

“The College and its employees cannot comment on the ongoing review; however, the College’s President, Dr. Laurie Chesley, will consider media interview requests when the review is concluded, to the extend [sic] the College is legally able to comment on the review’s findings and recommendations,” she wrote.

The COCC 2019-20 budget indicates there are 11.3 “full-time equivalent” employees in the department and the college paid out nearly $800,000. The overall department budget was $946,906.

Kovitz said the month-long review is expected to begin in the next few days.

In the meantime, Bend Patrol Services will provide security on-site and will notify local law enforcement in the event of an emergency, she said.

Most of COCC’s courses are currently on-line so student activity on campus is limited.

“Above all, COCC’s commitment is to the safety and well-being of our students, employees, and the community at large,” Kovitz wrote.

In July last year, the college agreed to a $2 million settlement with a family whose daughter was killed by a campus police officer in 2018.

Edwin Lara, 32-years-old at the time, pleaded guilty to killing Kaylee Sawyer and is serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.

In 2019 the Bend Police Department provided COCC with its first College Resource Officer, a veteran officer who served full time on the Bend campus.

That officer has not been working on campus since the pandemic shut it down last year.

In 2017, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel accused campus officers of “acting like police officers” and overstepping their bounds.

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