▶️Review of COCC campus safety office shows need for more supervision

An independent review of COCC’s public safety department found patrol cars were being used for personal purposes and campus safety supervision wasn’t consistent with current college needs.

“There were some complaints about the internal operations of the department and cop like behaviors,” said Dr. Laurie Chesley, COCC’s president.

The review, which started in March, also determined there was no violations of Kaylee’s Law, a state law that ensures campus police don’t act in a law enforcement capacity.

“COCC remains committed to making our campuses as safe as they can be for everyone,” said Chesley. “This review and its findings will help the college continue to make campus safety a clearly defined, student-focused service rooted in education.”

Chesley has appointed Andrew Davis, the college’s director of student/campus life, to the position of interim campus safety director.

Davis will provide daily oversight of the department and report directly to Chesley.

Attorneys Karen Vickers and Beth Plass completed the outside review.

According to a statement from COCC: The review’s findings include:

  • Patrol cars were used by campus safety staff for personal purposes. The college should develop clear policies and trainings for the department regarding the use of department vehicles and other subjects, including on-call work and sick time.
  • There was not a hostile work environment.
  • Campus safety supervision is inconsistent with current college needs.

“There was not a hostile work enforcement within CPS and there was no violation of Kaylee’s law,” said Chesley. “The report also indicates that the college has a lot of work to do in several area to clarify policies and procedures and provide more training to our safe.”

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.

In March, the college put all of the campus safety officers on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of this review.

“Our community needs to trust the campus; our students and our staff need to feel safe and so when concerns were raised, we immediately asked for an independent review, and we are being transparent as possible with the results of that review,” Chesley said.

The status of those employees now is unclear.

“The college does not comment on specific personnel actions taken as a result of the review’s findings,” according to a COCC statement.

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.

The statement said COCC will hire a consultant to provide guidance on the issues noted above, as well as on campus safety staff job descriptions and further defining the essential boundaries between campus safety staff and law enforcement.

Additionally, the college will change the campus safety staff uniforms to a more casual style to further ensure they are easily distinguishable from local law enforcement.

COCC campus safety staff will be present during weekday business hours.

“We will address the issues that were raised as we move forward as promptly as possible … CPS will be overseen by me,” Chesley said. “CPS will report to me, at least for the foreseeable future, so that I can make sure we are making progress on the issues that need to be addressed.”

The college will continue to contract with Bend Patrol Services to perform random evening and weekend patrols on its two largest campuses in Bend and Redmond.

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