A CSUN security escort program does not require background checks, fingerprinting or drug tests on its student employees.
Matador Patrol, whose purpose is to provide safety escorts for people walking alone at night on campus, used to have fingerprinting and drug testing for Community Service Assistant employees upon hire. Those requirements are not currently in place.
Christina Villalobos, CSUN public safety spokesperson, said applicants probably would not apply for the position if they had a criminal record. Even if the applicants do not have a clean record they can still be hired.
“A crime at 17? are we gonna hold it against you if you’re 35?” Villalobos said.
In 2005, 8,565 students accepted solicited requests to be escorted and 423 calls were made requesting security escorts, she said. These numbers demonstrate that almost 9,000 students entrusted their safety to the escort program.
The hiring process consists of an interview and checking references. Once hired, a CSA must complete in-field training, defensive driving training and an eight-hour pepper spray course. The in-field training also entails a bicycle course, first aid, CPR and fire extinguisher training. Defensive driving training is required because CSA’s use electrical carts and the lead advisers can also use vans when necessary, Villalobos said.
Anne Glavin, chief of Police and director of Public Safety, was not available for comment.
Debbie L. Richeson, director of auxiliary services of San Diego State University’s Department of Public Safety, manages a staff of 30 CSOs who escort up to 150 students per night. Depending on the shift, one to 25 CSA’s may work on one shift at Matador Patrol.
Richeson said students who join the university’s CSO program must go through several background checks, including a Live Scan background check, a Department of Motor Vehicles check, and a search for outstanding warrants.
Live Scan is an automated service for criminal history background checks that takes a digital fingerprint of the applicant. After the fingerprint is electronically transmitted to the California Department of Justice, it is used to search for a possible criminal record.
The DMV search often reveals the most important information of the individual, Richeson said.
The top-two reasons for rejecting an applicant because of information found during a background check are arrests for driving under the influence or a DMV record with multiple instances of accidents or citations, Richeson said.
Other reasons for rejecting an applicant include outstanding warrants or a criminal history. Although Richeson said the university determines applicants on a case by case basis, past infractions are not necessarily grounds for rejection.
“Only one in a hundred applicants gets rejected because of a background check,” Richeson said.
Although different universities used different methodology, in-depth background checking was deemed necessary even at campuses with low crime rates.
According to information posted on various campus police Web sites, over a three-year period between 2002 and 2004 there were nine violent crimes reported on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona University and nine reported at Cal State Chico. During that same period of time, 53 violent crimes were reported at CSUN. Both Chico and Pomona require fingerprinting.
At Cal Poly Pomona, police perform what they describe as a mini-background check that involves a DMV check and a criminal history clearance.
CSU Los Angeles calls its escort service “Eagle Patrol” and like CSU Channel Islands, CSU Fullerton, San Diego State, San Francisco State University, UCLA and CSU San Bernardino require safety escorts to undergo through fingerprinting as well as other background checks.
Capt. Scott VanScoy, who has been at Matador Patrol since February 2001 and now oversees the program, does not believe schools such as CSU Los Angeles or CSU San Diego compare to CSUN because their campuses are bigger and more serious levels of crimes take place, he said.
Matador Patrol also uses CSA’s to specifically patrol student housing. They operate from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday through Saturday, except during the summer semesters. Their job requires locking all gates and registering residents’ guests. These hours were determined as the peak hours for parties, said Jamie Davis, the CSA division personnel manager and lead adviser.
“I understand why they need to close all the gates and monitor but they are never consistent,” says a CSUN student and former resident adviser, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.
“I now live off campus but have a friend that I have to drive to school on Friday nights who lives in the dorms. When we drop her off at 10 p.m., the gates are closed and I have to go through the protected gate. Every week it’s a different procedure to go through the gate just to drop off a friend. One week I had to give them my driver’s license so they could copy down my information. The next week I was told to give the CSA’s my I.D. so they could hold it as collateral. Last week I was told ‘yeah, no problem, just go drop her off and come back’ with no need to exchange any information. It just seems to depend on which officer you deal with,” the former adviser said.
A CSA, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, expressed similar sentiments.
“I have encountered quite a few problems during shifts, nothing too dangerous. Most of the time they are little incidents where people break the minor rules, such as running the posts (gates) without showing ID, minor arguments that might break into fights or sometimes do break into fights, loud music, etc.,” the CSA said.
CSAs must call a police dispatcher when they are faced with gate hopping or trespassing to give a description of the individual. CSA’s must gain clearance from a supervisor before performing anything dangerous, such as following someone. These types of situations happen frequently, Davis said.
No CSAs have been fired for safety issues, VanScoy said. Some were fired for making inappropriate comments on the job to females, he said.
The program altered their policies during 2003-2004. These changes included the job responsibilities for CSA’s.
Prior to the changes, the employees’ security roles allowed use of force, if necessary. Current policy restricts physical interference.
CSA’s carry pepper spray and a Maglight for their personal protection only, VanScoy said.
“If there’s a problem they call the police,” he said.
The service is free and available every night during fall and spring semesters from dusk until at least 9 p.m.
At least nine CSU’s have a safety escort program and all of them require fingerprinting as a condition of employment.
Many of these campuses programs have similar procedure to the CSUN Matador Patrol.
“One of the reasons comes down to expense,” VanScoy said.
California charges $32 for Live Scan fingerprinting. Since CSUN Matador Patrol program averages 120 CSAs a year, the total of utilizing Live Scan would be $4,000.
VanScoy said he would rather pay his employees more and spend the money on them so they can do their job.
“They should do fingerprints for our safety,” said Victoria Samayoa, freshmen sociology student at CSUN.