A violent attack on campus should be the last worry of Saddleback College students, according to Chief Harry Parmer.
A veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm, Parmer said the department is tactically ready for any situation without being overly restrictive.
“I could make this campus impenetrable, like a jail. But then it wouldn’t be a college, it would be a jail,” Parmer said. “The community needs to know that we are here to protect, not to overly police.”
The department has different levels of readiness, similar to those used by city departments. The campus police decide how high that level needs to be based on factors such as time of day, what type of groups and people are on campus, and what information they receive from sources like the Terrorism Early Warning Group.
“I trust that the Saddleback police are prepared for an attack,” said student Suzanne Kelchner, 43, interdisciplinary studies. “[But] how much students know about the plan is different.”
Saddleback’s police department has 11 sworn officers and four unsworn officers. Sworn officers are actual police officers and would be the personnel to respond in the event of a violent situation, while un-sworn officers take on more security detailed work and would not respond to such a situation.
“Take the number of officers we have patrolling the 210 acres on campus and compare that with what the sheriff department patrols in Mission Viejo,” Parmer said. “That is good coverage.”
Parmer maintains a close relationship with local police and fire departments. He has coordinated on-campus training for local agencies to be better prepared in the case of an emergency where outside help would be needed. Parmer believes it is this coordination between the different departments that would be key in the event of an emergency.
The department has also made two recent changes to help ensure the safety of students in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. One is aimed at recognizing and helping students on campus that may be considered potential threats.
The second was the adoption of the Burbury Alert System, which enables Chief Parmer at a moments notice to send both a voice and text emergency message to every phone on campus.