Interim Saddleback College Police Chief Patrick Higa served with the OCSD for almost 30 years. (Courtesy of Saddleback College Police Dept.)
Saddleback College recently announced the appointment of Orange County Sheriff’s Department veteran Patrick Higa as the interim police chief following the retirement of Chief Christopher Wilkinson.
Higa, a 28-year veteran of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, began working for the campus police force last June, serving as the department’s operations lieutenant. While with the OCSD, he was chief of police for the city of Lake Forest. He has also been a patrol deputy and sergeant for the cities of Mission Viejo and Lake Forest.
The choice to work for the Saddleback campus police came because Higa said he believed Wilkinson was doing new and unique things for the campus police force. That caused him to ultimately choose Saddleback over many other law enforcement jobs.
“He [Wilkinson] was revamping the department, bringing it up to post standards, maintaining it and introducing traditional law enforcement, in addition to the educational law enforcement that was being done,” Higa said. “Essentially it seemed like he was creating a new and better department and that intrigued me.”
Higa also explained what the differences are in controlling a college campus, compared to an actual city.
“The service provided is a little bit different and the cliental is different,” Higa said. “It is not about enforcement of the law strictly, it’s about helping the administration or helping the student body. It’s more of a community orientated policing program,” Higa said. “We try to integrate ourselves where we are wanted or where we are needed and to assist.”
Crime is low at Saddleback, in line with surrounding cities and especially the city of Mission Viejo, which was previously ranked as one of the safest cities in America, according to a report by CQ Press in 2013.
“Mission Viejo has always been in the top ten safest cities in America for cities with a population of 100,000 and below,” Higa said. “This is in an area where the crime rate is naturally low and you also see that in the community of the college.”
Ultimately, Higa’s goal is to have his police force be seen as part of Saddleback College community. He wants his officers to be there to help the college administrators and student body with daily activities and be seen as there to help and assist anybody in need.
“A great goal for us is to be seen as part of the campus. A group that can be seen as there to help,” Higa said. “We would like to be able to be seen as part of the college’s educational community.”