Thursday, April 19 , 2018, 4:44 pm | Fair 70º


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Hancock College Board Delays Action on Police Department’s Future

Former Guadalupe police chief Chris Nartatez hired as interim chief as trustees mull keeping agency or switching to campus safety force

Allan Hancock College Board of Trustees decided Tuesday to delay action on the future of the campus police department. Click to view larger
Allan Hancock College Board of Trustees decided Tuesday to delay action on the future of the campus police department.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

A familiar face will take the helm of the Allan Hancock College Police Department next month even as the future of the agency remains in doubt.

The Hancock Board of Trustees appointed Chris Nartatez as interim chief of the agency he led previously. His new contract spans from Jan. 1 through May 31.

Nartatez is a retired Santa Maria police sergeant and a former Guadalupe police chief.

He will replace Ronald Schram who has filled in as interim chief for five months, including evaluating the police department and needs of the campus.

“The report provides two scenarios for establishing a campus safety operation, one that provides sworn officers working under a chief and a sergeant and a second that provides non-sworn campus safety officers working under a director and supervisor,” Superintendent/President Kevin Walthers said in his written report to the board.

“The report does not make a recommendation of one approach over the other, although it does recommend that the chief/director position be filled by someone with law enforcement experience,” Walthers said.

The board decided to tackle the topic during a Jan. 16 retreat after board members Greg Pensa and Larry Lahr said they were not ready to take action Tuesday night.

Chris Nartatez in 2014, after retiring as a Santa Maria police sergeant. Click to view larger
Chris Nartatez in 2014, after retiring as a Santa Maria police sergeant.  (Noozhawk file photo)

“No. 1, this is a major decision and it’s a whole change in culture on the campus,” Pensa said. “I would suggest we put this on our board agenda for the retreat, have a good hearty discussion about it, before we make any decisions going forward.”

Lahr said he needed more information to make the decision. 

“I’m not ready to say yes we are committed to it. I’m not ready to say we should not have it,” he said.

Board President Hilda Zacarias disagreed, calling Schram’s report comprehensive. 

“I just want to remind you we have been working on this for many months,” she said. “We have a board policy on campus safety which states that we will have a police department.

“To go to not having a police department feels something very contrary,” she added. 

But erring on the side of giving the topic more time, she asked if her colleagues, Dan Hilker and Jeffery Hall, would withdraw their motion, and then all five members agreed to delay the topic to the retreat.

Schram’s report evaluates individuals employed by the department so it had not been released to the  public, Walthers said.

Tuesday night, the college board voted 4-1 to make the report public once any personal information is redacted. Pensa was the lone opponent.

The current department with a chief, sergeant, two dispatch technicians, four sworn peace officers and 4.5 safety officer positions costs $990,012. 

Keeping a police department, with a boost in personnel by adding one more sworn officer and  one more campus safety officer, would cost $1.2 million. 

Transitioning to a campus safety officer department, with a director, supervisor, records technician and nine campus safety officers, would cost $889,190.

The board previously balked at acting on the department’s future, deciding to get opinions of a committee of college law enforcement experts. 

The committee members were divided on what avenue the Hancock board should take regarding the police department.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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