Retirements, budget cuts and stricter enforcement find their way into SRJC Police Department

Haley Sansom, Layout Editor

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The SRJC Police Department is undergoing multiple changes this semester. Among these changes are a new chief of police, two retiring police officers, and the possibility of the dispatch center being closed.

The first change to the department is the new Chief of Police, Christopher Wilkinson. One thing students can expect to see from him is more aggressive enforcement of the smoking rules on campus. While the ordinance was put in place last year, countless students still smoke on campus. Neighbors complain about students leaving cigarette butts in their yards. While the rules regarding smoking didn’t seem that serious last year, Sgt. Dave Willat said, “Expect that to change.”

Budget cuts are also impacting the police station. Due to the lack of funds, the SRJC Police Department is having a difficult time filling vacant positions. “It’s unfortunate because we might have to shut down some of our services, like our 24/7 dispatch,” Willit said. Of the six dispatcher positions, three need to be filled.

The process of hiring new dispatchers is difficult and time consuming because it requires background checks, polygraph tests and three weeks at the police academy. If the full-time positions are not filled, the police department dispatch would shut down every night and calls would be turned over to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. SRJC police would still be on duty, but instead of calling the campus police station phone number, students would dial the sheriff’s department.

The 24/7 hour campus dispatch is more efficient than going through the sheriff’s office. Closing it down at night poses another problem for the campus. Since the alarms and security codes are monitored from the dispatch office, there would be nobody inside to notice triggered alarms. “It’s becoming a crisis,” Willat said.

Currently, SRJC Police Department also has an open sergeant position and a vacant lieutenant position. Former Sgt. Don Silverek and Lt. Steven Donica left this fall. Both retirements came as a surprise to many.

Silverek is currently devoting his time to emergency management and preparedness, working for both the California Emergency Management Homeland Security Commission and the California Emergency Management Association. “It seemed like the perfect time to change because we have a new police chief. I needed to step back and allow him to fill the ranks with someone who was 100 percent on board. I couldn’t* have dedicated 100 percent of my time to him,” Silverek said.

Steven Donica left SRJC after serving many years with SRJC police department. He is currently working for a company remodeling homes.

What lies ahead for the JC police department is uncertain. “We’ll see what happens. Only time will tell,” Willat said.

*Correction: the article originally quoted Silverek saying he  “wouldn’t have dedicated 100 percent”

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