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Davis, California

Monday, May 27, 2024

Sexual assault cases used in CSUS police campaign

CSU Sacramento (CSUS) experienced a record-high number of sexual assaults on its campus last semester. This term, that number is being used in a campaign to put more patrols on campus.

“The sexual assaults are just one component of our overall concern,” said Jeff Solomon, president of the Statewide University Police Association (SUPA) and a corporal of the CSUS Police Department. “Having the ability to respond and having proper staffing levels are also our main concerns.”

The campus police department is staffed by 17 patrol officers. Additionally, there are four management positions in the department, including chief Daniel Davis and his lieutenants.

Since Davis took the position of police chief in 2002, the number of lieutenants have increased from one to three.

“There has been a 200 percent increase in management,” Solomon said. “Ninety percent of the time, we have more management in the office than patrol [officers].”

SUPA, the union for police officers, corporals and sergeants for the CSU system, is campaigning to get more patrol shifts on campus.

“We have low staffing issues statewide,” Solomon said. “There are places like San Diego State University that have appropriate staffing levels. But they’re twice our size, and they only have two lieutenants.”

This staffing issue is a primary reason for dissent within the department. On Jan. 4, union members gave a 14-1 vote of no confidence in the leadership of the department.

“We feel there needs to be a change in the direction of the police department,” Solomon said.

On Jan. 26, SUPA paid for a full-page advertisement in the State Hornet, the CSUS campus newspaper, with the headline: “Warning! Sac State crime is out of control.”

The ad points to the eight sexual assault crimes and one murder that occurred on campus last semester. It also claims a decrease in the number of patrol officers while there was an addition of management positions.

The union is under scrutiny for using crime statistics for their campaign. All of the sexual assault cases are still under investigation and no suspects have been prosecuted.

In one of the cases, the victim’s credibility is being called into question. On Nov. 15, the victim was reportedly assaulted in a campus parking garage as she left a night class. However, further investigation revealed that the victim did not have a scheduled class the night of the incident.

While false reports of sexual assaults are rare, it is common for victims to incorrectly report the details surrounding their assault, said Jessica Heskin, violence and sexual assault support services coordinator at CSUS.

“When they’re going through the actual trauma of victimization, the brain sometimes freezes up because of increased adrenaline,” Heskin said. “Their mind is still in shock.”

As a victim is interviewed multiple times over a long period, it is not unusual that there are inconsistencies to their story, Heskin said.

Despite the recent increase in sexual assaults, the university asserts the security of its students.

“We feel that this is a safe campus,” said John Kepley, special assistant to the president. “We are in the top 14 percent in the nation in terms of security on campus.

Since the height of the sexual assaults, CSUS has been trying to educate its students on personal safety and crime prevention.

“[Campus police] has been very visible,” Kepley said. “They have handed out 8,000 cards [that list safety tips].

The university also created a campus safety information page on their website, which includes safety tips, ongoing safety projects and contact information, in response to safety concerns.

“Education is an important aspect of securing our campus,” Kepley said.

Additionally, the Student Health Services, the Associated Students, Inc., and other campus organizations are working to put together “One Response: One Student” on Feb. 15. This is a campus-wide event to raise awareness on sexual violence.

Meanwhile, the chief and the police union are still working toward a resolution to staffing needs.

In the past two weeks, there have been more patrol shifts and overtime shifts given to officers, fulfilling the minimum of two patrol officers on campus.

“We consider that real progress,” Solomon said.

However, the union has not been granted a meeting with the police chief after several requests.

“We’re not asking for new positions,” Solomon said. “We want to downgrade management positions and to put those positions on patrol.”

Chief Davis was unavailable for comment.

SARAHNI PECSON can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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