University calls in the cops

A so-called Critical Response Unit (CRU) of 30 campus police officers from throughout the state university system will deploy on the Chico State University campus on Oct. 30 to guard the university on Halloween.

The CRU—sort of like a SWAT team—is trained to handle any difficulty that comes up but deals mainly with crowd control, reported Leslie Deniz, chief of campus police at Chico State.

The CRU is deployed on any campus that shows cause for concern, Deniz said. She made her request for the deployment through Manuel Esteban, the university’s president, who decided it was justified and sent it through to the CSU Chancellor’s Office for final OK.

“We don’t want to have a catastrophe and not have anyone on hand to take care of it,” Deniz said. “The responsibility here is that we are trying to look out for the welfare of the students, faculty and staff as well as … property. Hopefully, nothing will happen.”

Asked if she thought the obvious show of force amounted to overkill, the police chief replied in the negative, saying it was simply “good planning. The major concern here is public safety.” Is the university trying to contribute to the death of Halloween as a party event? “Not at all,” she replied. “I just hope everybody acts responsibly, has a good time, and goes home.”

Associated Students President Jimmy Reed said he didn’t think the move was heavy-handed but rather a reasonable attempt to protect students and university property. “Our University Police Department is already understaffed,” he added.

If the city pushes revelers out of the downtown area, their inclination might be to go north, toward campus. The A.S. is expecting some 1,000 people to attend its alcohol-free alternative events, a “Fright Fest” complete with a band and DJ, plus a midnight breakfast.

While the CRU will primarily patrol the campus, it will be ready to assist other officers in the urban area if a mutual-aid request comes in, Deniz explained. The officers will also patrol three closed parking areas owned by the university—two lots on Second Street and the multi-level structure on Second and Warner. Chico State’s lot on Second and Orange will remain open.

Closing the lots is only logical, Deniz said, noting that it didn’t make sense to offer alternative parking in the downtown area, since the city plans to close its downtown parking lot across from the Black Crow restaurant and its multilevel lot at Third and Salem.

Tom Alden, chief of the local unit of the California State Employees Association, attended a meeting his union had requested Tuesday with Esteban regarding whether a public-safety issue existed such that custodial staff should stay home on Halloween. Deniz briefed the meeting on CRU plans, he said, and custodians will remain on the job as usual. Alden said what he got out of the meeting was that “nobody should expect to come to the campus and mess around.”

The police chief labeled as false a persistent rumor that the campus would be closed to individuals at 6 p.m. on Halloween night. However, the only entrance to the campus for vehicles with identification and permission will be the right turn off Warner Street just before the bridge, and Warner Street will be closed.

Deniz said she did not know which campuses in both Northern and Southern California will send CRU officers, but they will come primarily from universities in Northern California. Chico State has two officers qualified to serve on the special unit. CRU members will remain in Chico through Nov. 2 for a specialized and certified training session they must undergo periodically. It will involve both classroom study and hands-on work, the police chief said.