The following message from President Hutchinson was sent to Chico State faculty and staff on June 16, 2020.

On the eve of June 12, I received a thoughtful letter signed by more than 130 faculty and staff expressing concern about the University Police Chief search and asking that it be canceled. I am moved by those concerns especially given the recent killings of three unarmed Black Americans: George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor by law enforcement in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of a former police investigator and his son in Georgia. Additionally, more African Americans were reported killed over the weekend. 

The protests we see across the country and around the globe are deep expressions of people’s pain and outrage for those Black Americans recently killed, and the countless others who died or were victimized before them. The protests symbolize a collective cry to end the brutality endured by Black and Brown people through systemic racism and White privilege that has plagued this country for centuries. 

In the letter, the search was described as insufficient. Concerned, I went back and reviewed the timeline for the search and determined that it aligns fully with search procedures typically used for position recruitment. For clarity, the following occurred:

  • On November 26, 2019, University Police Department (UPD) Chief John Reid announced his retirement effective at the end of May 2020.
  • The search for a new police chief began on February 17, 2020. Following consultation with the Executive Management Evaluation and Development Committee (EMEDC) Chair, an external search firm was hired and a campus search committee was assembled based on university policy (EM-18-022). 
  • The external search firm, hiring manager, and search chair met March 11 to discuss the priorities of the selection criteria based on Chico State’s current strategic plan. Actions were taken to develop a diverse candidate pool. 
  • The campus search chair worked with the external search firm to update the UPD Chief position description, which was then posted nationally on March 27. 

Campus instruction and services went virtual on March 25 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the pandemic, Chief Reid agreed to delay his retirement date, thereby extending it to the end of June. Throughout the latter half of May, the campus search committee reviewed applicant files and conducted interviews with six semifinalists. Two finalists emerged from the process and were invited to campus on June 8 and 9.  

At the crux of the faculty and staff letter was a request for a commitment to examine UPD policies, procedures, and practices, and identify any structural and behavioral racism that might exist. I support this request wholeheartedly. In fact, dating back to fall 2016, I called for a review of UPD policies and practices. The results of that review led to the appointment of UPD Police Chief John Reid, who has provided steadfast leadership to University police officers and staff as they worked daily to promote campus safety through proactive, progressive, and professional law enforcement and educational policing services. In step with recommendations from California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, UPD has a clearly written, best-practice, bias-free policing policy that includes: data collection and analysis; accountability; and supervisory review. All department personnel receive training on bias-free policing policies and practices. As a community-oriented policing agency, our UPD vision and values are all predicated on the concept that we endeavor to achieve campus safety through respectful interaction and equitable application of the law.

Under Chief Reid’s leadership for the past three years, UPD has taken deliberate steps to increase outreach and improve its relationship with campus, especially with students of color. The UPD has facilitated outreach with the Dream Center and provided information on the CSU’s enforcement position and policies. “Meet the Heat” brought command staff, sergeants, and officers together with Cross-Cultural Leadership Center students to share experiences and seek a better understanding of each other’s perspectives. This program will continue in the fall. UPD also employs students as Community Service Officers to provide service to the campus and support the police department. These actions are steps in the right direction and the UPD is to be commended. Together, we will engage the campus community this fall to ensure UPD policies and practices are inclusive and representative of all members of our community and align with the University’s strategic priorities. 

Additionally, the UPD serves as an essential function for campus emergency activation, a liaison to the Chico Police Department, and Butte County Sheriff and District Attorney’s offices, and provides expert guidance on graduation and other event-management services. The department’s service has been vitally important during the Camp Fire and amidst the current challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because of the vital role UPD fulfills on campus and in the community, it is important that our officers receive guidance and direction from a police chief charged with leading UPD operations. It also is important that a police chief actively participate in the Emergency Operations Center as the campus continues to navigate virtual and limited in-person instruction and services through the pandemic. The importance of having a qualified, experienced officer serving in the role of police chief is paramount.

Vice President Ann Sherman and I had the opportunity to speak with key writers of the campus community letter on June 13. We had a respectful and direct exchange that has deepened my understanding of the concerns voiced by a number of you. I also gained a broader understanding of the work that lies ahead of us. Consequently, I have decided to modify the UPD Chief appointment from permanent to a two-year interim assignment.

Given the national movement for police reform, I recognize the need for campus to have a more focused opportunity to hear from a finalist on issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. The candidate who received the strongest endorsement from the search committee will be invited back via Zoom to participate in four one-hour sessions with each of the following groups: search committee, Academic Senate Executive Committee, a faculty and staff forum with moderators and panelists, and a student forum with moderators and panelists. The candidate will prepare a presentation that addresses his philosophy and experience with equity, diversity, and inclusion on a University campus. A moderated question and answer session will follow the presentation, and panelists will have an opportunity to engage with the candidate. Members of the campus community will be invited to attend each forum. Information, including dates, times, and Zoom access, will be forthcoming. The search committee will collect and analyze feedback that will be submitted to me. I will consider their summary before moving forward with a two-year interim appointment. 

Chico State will continue to improve campus safety policies and practices through the lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Last week, the California State University (CSU) police chiefs pledged to implement recommendations from President Obama’s Task Force for 21st Century Policing (2015): 

“As police chiefs of the California State University’s 23 campus police departments, we have been galvanized by the many voices across our state and nation demanding accountability, equity and justice. We have seen the tragic impact of racism and bigotry, and many in our departments have experienced it personally. We are unitedly determined to take action.  

With the vigorous support of CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White and the strong endorsement of every CSU campus president, we pledge our commitment to implement the recommendations of The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, reported to President Barack Obama in May 2015. We are determined to lead by example, joining a growing number of American cities that have committed – collectively and collaboratively – to address police use-of-force polices. To that end, and effective immediately, we are prohibiting the use of the carotid control hold by all CSU police officers. Additionally, no CSU police officer will receive or participate in trainings that teach the carotid control hold.

As we implement the recommendations of the 21st Century Policing report, we re-commit ourselves and our departments to ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff on every CSU campus.”

I strongly endorse the CSU chiefs’ pledge and look forward to working with the next Chico State police chief on implementing the six pillars that comprise the president’s task force report: building trust and legitimacy; policy and oversight; technology and social media; community policing and crime reduction; training and education; and officer wellness and safety. 

I truly believe that all of us are committed to improving campus safety policies and practices so everyone, especially our communities of color, feels valued and safe and has the opportunity to thrive on campus.